How-To: Celebrating Black History Month

By: Natasha Perez

Who is able to celebrate Black History Month? Why do we have it? It is a month that comes and goes, leaving people with questions on how to celebrate it. 

According to asalh (Association for the Study of African American Life and History and history), Black History Month started out as “Negro History Week,” an event created by African American historian Carter G. Woodson. It inspired communities nationwide to organize celebrations, establish history clubs and performances and lectures, dedicated to researching and promoting achievements by black Americans. In the decades that followed, cities and college campuses have evolved Negro History Week into Black History Month.

It was in 1976 that President Gerald Ford officially recognized Black History Month, urging the country to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.” In order to help accomplish this goal, the Trojan Torch has created a list of ways to celebrate Black History Month. 

Education Through Entertainment: 

Education is the goal of Black History Month. Few people get beyond the basics of a daily quote and glances at book recommendations. There are other ways to celebrate, such as watching videos, listening to podcasts and researching incredible figures in the African American community. 

  • Black History Podcasts such as “Everyday Black History: Afro Appreciation” and “Primary Sources, Black History” are great resources to learn about the contributions of Black Men and Women both Past and present. 
  • Experience the powerful photographs by James Karales of the 1965 Selma to Montgomery civil rights marches. They became the icon for the civil rights movements when it was used in the “Eyes on the Prize” documentary. 
Photo of the Selma-to-Montgomery March for Voting Rights taken by James Karales. 
  • Learn about Shelton Jackson “Spike” lee a director, producer, writer, and actor as a prolific African American filmmaker. He found a production company, 40 Acres and a Mule Filmworks, has produced more than 35 films since 1983, making his directorial debut with “She’s Gotta Have It” and created monumental biographical film such as “Malcolm X”. 

Education through Music:

Although movies are the easiest way to see the dramatic account of a historical event, listening to music and hearing people’s experiences provide a wonderful opportunity to take a closer look through first-person accounts with a groovy historical narrative. 

  • Watch “History in the First Person: Music Moved the Movement: Civil Rights and the Blues”. It’s a groovy way to listen to blues and hear from civil rights activists and blues musicians talk about the power of Blues and its effects on America’s Civil Rights movement. 
  • Watch this oral history of legendary bluesman Bobby Rush, King of the Chitlin’ Circuit. As he shares intimate details of touring the club circuit during the Jim Crow laws era, while his charismatic charm shines through his improv performance in the National Blues Museum.

Education through Food:

Food speaks a thousand languages. Experiences billions of cultures. Another way to get creative with celebrating and fill your stomach with delicious food is to have a meal. Create a Caribbean, African, or traditional African American dish in the kitchen. 

Dishes To Make: 

  • Bake sweet potato biscuits, a traditional soul food treat. All you need are sweet potatoes and a load of butter. Spoon honey on them and enjoy the buttery goodness. This delicious recipe can be found on Oprah’s website. (It’s Oprah approved!)  
  • Make sesame benne wafers. Benne is the Bantu word for sesame. In the 17th century, West Africans were brought to the Americas as slaves, bringing benne seeds with them. The Benne seeds are said to bring good luck to those who eat them. The good luck is an added bonus to the wonderful flavor and crunch. The recipe can be found on KingArthurFlour.com. 
A lovely photo of benne wafers credited to KingArthurFlour.com. 

If you’re not a fan of cooking, Grub hub or uber eats from a local restaurant near you. Some of the best restaurants for comforting Soul Food and spicy Carribean is located in Oklahoma City. 

Soul Food: 

  • Mama E’s Soul Food is the best place to get your chicken and waffle fix. 
  • Florence Restaurant is ready for breakfast/brunch, with their chicken fried steak and pork chops. 

Carribean:

  • If you’re feeling a little spicier, head to Carican Flavors for their jerk or curried chicken. 
  • Want some tacos? The Fried Tacos are the place to be for their Carribean Jerk & Brisket Tacos.

Local History/Places To Visit:

There are more than 50 towns in Oklahoma that were established by African Americans in the early 1900s. They had shops, clinics, and newspapers while the town grew exceptionally. 

  • The city of Ardmore was built during the segregation era. It had more than 2,000 citizens that created their own business in the district. One of the businesses was one of the first all-black theaters, the Roxy Theater. The building is currently a church and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
Photo of The Roxy Theater contributed by Lauren Grubb from Cinema Treasures. 
  • A few blocks away from Oklahoma City’s Bricktown, Deep Deuce was where you got your jazz music fix. Black culture made Deep Deuce during the mid-1900s. Nowadays you’ll find apartment buildings and other developments that leave little remnants of the original Deep Deuce. Since there’s only one business in the area was still black-owned as of March 2014.

The true essence of Black History Month is to honor and promote the accomplishments of black Americans throughout our history. Anyone and everyone can appreciate the lives and accomplishments of prominent African American figures. We should take the rest of this month to educate ourselves and celebrate these foundational aspects of our American history.

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