In a previous blog post (see Celebrate Latinx/Heritage Month), we talked about the importance of incorporating cultural recognition months into the fabric of your diversity efforts. With Black History Month on the horizon, we wanted to circle back to a few critical ways you can make an impact with the students and staff at your school.
Creating Authentic and Relevant BHM Month Programming
There is nothing worse than a BHM calendar filled with food and fun, but little authentic or relevant content. This can be an excellent opportunity to connect with students, provide new and engaging opportunities for learning, but also an opportunity to spread knowledge and awareness for Black History and Culture.
Does your programming either, directly or indirectly make the statement "I’m Here." I’m “Woke”. "I see you?" If not, chances are you are missing out on a critical opportunity to incorporate concepts of social justice while at the same time, showing understanding and awareness for the issues impacting the black community today.
Culturally Appropriate vs. Cultural Appropriation
The key to a successful BHM program, is to know the difference between cultural appropriation and being culturally appropriate. While there is no litmus test to determine if you are truly riding the fine line, below are a few tips that can help guide a successful BHM programming strategy.
Allow the students that you serve and support to guide BHM programming. If you do not have formal clubs or student organizations such as Black Student Union or African Student Association, do what you can to create an advisory group of students and staff and have dialogue about what they would like to see reflected in BHM programming. While budget and other factors may limit your ability to deliver each and every request, you can have confidence that your programming is authentically responding to the students and staff from those communities at your school.
GO FOR QUALITY OVER QUANTITY
When in doubt, strive for a few concrete and impactful programs or opportunities rather than packing the calendar with fluff. Incorporating the use of small, yet engaging events can make a BIG difference. Some ideas to connect with students include:
•View a film on Netflix such as When They See Us and have a critical dialogue about the themes represented in the film as they relate to the current black student experience.
•Host a reading of a text by a Black author and challenge students to read the text before the discussion.
•Break bread over a cultural meal catered by a Black owned restaurant or business.
Black History did not begin or end with slavery. Create Black history month programming that speaks to the current state, not just the classical historical narrative.
Support a local business or speaker that directly or indirectly benefits the cause or community that you hope to support.
CHECK THE DIFFERENCE
Know the difference between being culturally appropriate and cultural appropriation. Black History Month programming should not be filled with Wakanda Forever, but rather should represent a conscious effort to celebrate and support the rich culture and history of the students you serve and support.