February is Black History Month. Following a year of racial unrest, I find the tone of this year's celebration to be different, and I. AM. HERE. FOR. IT.
For one, it is a welcome change to be reminded by some of the black female voices I follow that the month is NOT for cherry-picking a few notable black figures and what they contributed to American History. The point of ANY month with a similar designation is to note the richness and contribution of the entire culture, gender, or people. I've listened and learned that the point is to acknowledge how our society and our history is made richer for having the contributions of ALL black people.
When we take a handful of black men and women and focus solely on their achievements we further reinforce that the only black contributors worth noting are those who have added something deemed valuable...a first-in-flight honor. A scientific discovery. A racial barrier crossed. Why don't we use it to talk about why there IS a racial barrier that every black man, woman, and child must confront?
The second change I notice is a backlash on lip service that, to me, is long overdue. The Super Bowl is an excellent example. During the game, the NFL aired a commercial pledging a very large amount of money ($250 million) to fight systemic racism and partner with players who are already engaged in these efforts. Sadly, having an already tarnished record on the matter, Commissioner Roger Goddell is facing a backlash that he's simply throwing money at a problem and not looking INSIDE the NFL for ways the organization itself perpetuates systems of privilege and racism. It's been reported he even wants to "leverage" the good work Colin Kaepernick has done, which sounds a lot like 'activist appropriation'.
The third positive change I'm seeing is that people seem to be using Black History Month as an opportunity for checking in on the promises they made over the summer during the Black Lives Matter marches. As content on Netflix, Goodreads, Instagram, and other platforms puts its focus on black-made movies, black authors, black voices, and black artists I am inspired once again to redouble my learning and listening efforts.
A COMMITMENT DEFINED
Back in June of 2020, I made a promise to run my business in such a way that it was as anti-racist as I knew how to make it, confident that my knowledge and awareness are always expanding and allowing for improvement. The work primarily has been behind the scenes, as I have been cognizant that it be a personal process and not appear as performative activism. That said, I offer this blog post as a place to document some of the efforts made, should someone have questions about my sincerity or commitment. The following is a list of actions taken along this journey.
- I examine my own biases and do my best to offer true allyship over performative activism. While I sometimes share the work I am doing to better myself, the goal is not performative, but to occasionally prove that the work continues even after the marches have ended.
- Because representation matters, I use images of women that take into consideration the varied, rich, and beautiful ways we live, love, and succeed. Mostly these appear in Instagram stories since my feed often features me, but blog, email, and website images are selected to be inclusive and diverse.
- I amplify melanated voices, especially women's, on topics for which I have no experience.
- I added questions to my FAQs to help BIPOC women feel seen and supported by me and my business. Though I do not have the same lived experience, I attempt to explain the ways in which I have and continue to keep myself
- I refer to anti-racism resources for use in running my business. Everything from identifying vendors from underrepresented communities to guides for talking about race and race issues.
- I buy and read books from black-owned independent bookstores such as Brave + Kind Books.
- I follow authors and activists such as Rachel Cargle, Ibram X. Kendi, Myisha T. Hill, @ckyourprivilege, @brownsisterspeaks, Biana Gabrielle, Monique Melton, Equal Justice Initiative, Layla Saad, Sonya Renee Taylor, Blair Imani, @privtoprog, and Tamika Mallory.
- I have added to my reading list the following books: How to Be Anti-racist, 400 Souls, Policing the Black Man, Between the World and Me, and others. Follow me on Goodreads to see the list of books read on social justice topics from genocide to sexual assault.
WHAT HAVE BEEN YOUR TAKEAWAYS FROM BLACK HISTORY MONTH THIS YEAR?