“Culture shapes lives. It’s in the food people eat, the languages they speak, the art they create, and many other ways they express themselves. These traditions reflect the history and creative spirit of African American and other cultures of the African diaspora.” These words from blackhistorymonth.gov introduce Cultural Expressions, an immersive experience open this month at the National Museum of African American History & Culture in Washington D.C., part of the Smithsonian Institute.
February is National Black History Month; here are some ways to celebrate!
Art & Culture
The theme of Black History Month 2024 is “African Americans and the Arts,” which spans the many impacts Black Americans have had on visual arts, music, cultural movements, and more.
The National Museum of African American History & Culture (NMAAHC) is a great starting place to explore “Art as a Platform for Social Justice.”
“African American artists — poets, writers, visual artists, and dancers — have historically served as change agents through their crafts.” Says the website “Our museum celebrates Black History Month 2024 by highlighting the "art of resistance" and the artists who used their crafts to uplift the race, speak truth to power and inspire a nation.”
On the website you can find a digital toolkit that guides through the weeks of February, exploring different aspects of the arts:
- Week 1, Feb. 1-4: Literature and Poetry
- Week 2, Feb. 5-11: Performing Arts
- Week 3, Feb. 12-18: Visual Arts
- Week 4, Feb. 19-25: Music
- Week 5, Feb. 26-29: Digital Arts
In Orange County, Fla., there is a Black History Month Art Exhibit February 2 – March 31, at the Terrace Gallery, Orlando City Hall. “The arts are an intrinsic part of Black heritage and culture, for this reason, the City of Orlando hosted an Open Call for local artists to showcase the diverse richness of African American history and heritage through the visual arts. After evaluating all the art submissions, a diverse group of 26 visual artists were chosen to showcase their art pieces at the city’s Black History Month Art Exhibition.” According to the website.
In Southern California a number of organizations are holding events to celebrate African American arts and culture. Which one of these is near you?
- Taste of Soul and Black Business Expo in the Southern Inland Empire, Murrieta Community Center
- African American and Black History Month: Jazz Collage, George Nye Jr. Library
- Pan African Film & Arts Festival, Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza
- Black History Month: Arts & Crafts, Monrovia Public Library
- 8th Annual Los Angeles Black History Month Festival, Los Angeles
- African American Festival, The Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach
Representation Matters. When we see ourselves modeled in literature, media, and elsewhere, we understand that we are not alone in our experiences, which can add validation to those experiences and feelings.
The Orange County Library System (Fla.) has a curated reading list for Black History Month, and they’re hosting a Read-In mid-month at the downtown Orlando library. “Celebrate African American literature in poetry, story, and song, performed by local luminaries in conjunction with the 35th Annual National African American Read-In.” says their website.
Orange County Public Libraries (Calif.) has visiting authors throughout the month and branch events celebrating Black History and African Americans.
The Los Angeles Public Library has resources like Education & Research, Books & E-Media, Experiences, and a Reading Suggestions on their website, as well as ways to discover music, poetry, and history makers in African American history.
Context Matters as well as Representation. Reading stories in African American voices by African American authors can allow you to share emotional space with the authors and allow you to engage your understanding, not just of Black history but also the nuances of the Black American experience.
Food is an art form! The National Museum of African American History & Culture (NMAAHC) is showcasing The Dooky Chase Restaurant a New Orleans landmark. Civil rights organizers met at the restaurant in the 1950s to plan their course of action. Today it serves lunch Tuesdays through Fridays, and dinner Friday and Saturday night. The menu is New Orleans Creole; gumbo, poboys, red beans & rice, and other traditional classics. Learn more about Chef Leah Chase (Dooky’s is has been family-owned and operated since 1941), the restaurant and take a look at her cookbook.
On Disney+ you can also search for the Black Stories collection, featuring categories like Black Joy, Critically Acclaimed Black Stories, stories From Black Directors, Black History, Sports and Culture, stories Hosted by Black Talent, stories that Celebrate Black Creatives, Her Stories, Family, and more.
“StoryCorps is committed to the idea that everyone has an important story to tell and that everyone’s story matters. Our mission: to help us believe in each other by illuminating the humanity and possibility in us all — one story at a time. Since our founding in 2003, we’ve helped more than 640,000 people across the country have meaningful conversations about their lives. These recordings are collected in the U.S. Library of Congress and in our online archive which is now the largest single collection of human voices ever gathered.” Says the StoryCorps website. You can celebrate Black History Month with StoryCorps as they uplift Black voices and history. You can also participate by recording your own conversations about the Black experience and uploading them.
On your own social media accounts, you can share books, podcasts, events, and organizations you have been introduced to above, and recommend them to your family and friends.
Your favorite professional networking platform can also provide you with a way to search for groups and resources to connect with.
Reach out, make connections, create meaningful relationships through social media and professional networking.
Participation and attendance at events and gatherings requires an element of interaction. Whether online and virtual, or live and in-person, connecting with other human beings is where and how the future is built.
Please, always check ahead before you go and ensure the events you are planning to attend are still scheduled and meet your expectations and needs.
Partners will share stories and resources to honor the history, achievements, and contributions of African Americans on Facebook and Instagram @partnersfcu. On February 21 at Noon - 1p.m. PST/ 3 - 4p.m. EST, Wakanda@Disney in Glendale, Calif. is hosting a powerful conversation on Black legacy and financial well-being with guest speaker, Ricky Otey. Click Webinar Registration - Zoom to join virtually.
The Walt Disney Company Business Employee Resource Groups are hosting events at multiple locations throughout the month, including some sponsored by Partners! Get connected and find the right event for you. The Disney Experiences (DX), formerly Disney Parks, Experiences, and Products (DPEP) division Black History Month BERGs are hosting events throughout the month. Get in touch with the BERG at your location through Slack (collaboration platform) or by email available on the BERG site on Cast Life.
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