Almost 90 years after Carter G. Woodson laid the foundation for Black History Month, the yearly observation of the contributions of African-Americans to the country has devolved into a regurgitation of trivia and a tired observation of the same notable African Americans. There is more to Black History Month than Martin Luther King, Jr.
Black History Month can easily be translated into something newer, fresher and more relevant. Instead of simply focusing on the history makers of the past, there are ways of focus on the history makers of today.
There are a number of research labs and community outreach projects based at the more than 100 historically black colleges and universities across the country. Talk to students and professors at local HBCUs to discover the history being made within the collegiate walls.
Add some soul to your food coverage, by covering not just traditional soul food, but tasty alternatives like kosher or vegetarian soul food. Attend a spoken word event (YouTube link, NSFW language) and watch members of the community express their minds poetically.
The Schools for the Colored photo gallery is reminiscent of a photo project I saw some time ago that used archival photos of black neighborhoods and compared them to more recent photos to document the evolution of the area.
Lately, I have been enjoying VH1’s “Say It Loud” documentary series that brings together musicians young and old to speak about themes running through black music, like sexuality and politics. Its fun (and secretly educational) seeing Snoop Dogg and Teddy Pendergrass talk about the passionate music of Marvin Gaye.
The Black Vote in Oakland by the UC Berkeley School of Journalism (of which I am an alum) is a great multimedia piece focused on the voting habits of African Americans, which promises to be a more scrutinized issue in the coming months. For her masters project several years ago, a UC Berkeley alum traveled the country photographing streets named after Martin Luther King. The project showed the blighted nature of the streets, but was also vaguely uplifting.
BET has a photo slideshow of entertainers making history right now and Los Angeles blog LAist has a list of ten books hat provide a balanced overview of black history recommended by a local bookstore.
PBS has a must see multimedia site about the black experience and though the verdict is still out on The Root, a web magazine by the Washington Post focused on African American issues, it is a step in the right direction.
No matter your Black History Month coverage, it shouldn’t end when March 1st rolls around. I hate to quote McDonald’s, but Black History happens 24-7-365.