Let’s Celebrate Black History Month! But Then What’s Next…


February 2018 is a great time to be black in New Orleans. If you have any exposure to media outlets, you’d likely agree there is an infectious positive energy associated being with being black, especially right here in New Orleans.

In addition to the recurring celebration of Black History Month, and the local celebrations of Mardi Gras, which in the city’s black culture, significantly honors the Zulu Club, Nomtoc Club and the recent celebration of the Treme Sidewalk Steppers, which honored our very own, Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews, we have been lucky enough to witness the box office phenomenon that is the release of Marvel’s Black Panther movie.

And with Black Panther breaking box office records earning a smashing $235 million during its opening weekend, you can’t help but feel the euphoria.

Even if you try your hardest not to.

But when our celebratory month comes to an end, the floats return to their warehouses, and  Black Panther is no longer in theatres, what will we be left to enthrall as it relates to our heritage?  What will we celebrate then?

How can this hypnotic black spirit carry over so we are able to keep our kids excited about their heritage throughout the year? What will remind them to be proud of their blackness rather than afraid because of the images on their televisions?

Don’t Put Your African Garb Away Just Yet!

There is something very strong and regal about African culture, and incorporating it into our lives allows opportunities for both adults and youth to learn more about the traditions of African culture, the garments, and its appropriation. We saw beautiful people adorned with African printed garbs and face paint as they graced the movie theatres. I hope you didn’t buy those items for just one special occasion! Why not make this presentation a part of your lifestyle in whatever way you choose, whether it be home decor, artwork, clothing, etc.?

While Movies Have Your Attention, Watch MORE!

What better time and opportunity to bond and discuss our heritage than during and/or after viewing visual art that illustrates the tenacity of those before and among us.  And no, these don’t all need to be slave adaptations, but even films such as Akeelah and the Bee deviate from traditional stereotypes of black communities, providing an inspirational glimpse into the life of a young black girl who braves participation in the Scripps National Spelling Bee despite an oppositional (but really just overprotective) single mother.  

Don’t Forget to Read!

Similar to the beautiful depictions and discussions derived from film, books not only provide great stimulus for discussion, but reading to and with your child has a significant impact on learning and literacy, sparking both enrichment and empowerment for the entire family.  Children are tasked to read each day in school, so involvement in your child’s book selections will not only promote their knowledge and improve their reading skills, but as parents, we can identify whether or not the content being taught in schools is providing rich and relatable content as well. Click here for a list of Essence’s suggested readings for black children

Don’t Let the Talk of Wakanda Waste Away as Chatter of the Movie Does.  

Teach and Maintain Positive Affirmations Yearlong!

How beautiful it is to speak about race without mentioning one of Trump’s egregious Tweets, a senseless murder or some other existing inequity? As a group that has been marginalized since the beginning of time, there is no better time to celebrate being black!  The association of black men as kings rather than thugs and/or targets is a beautiful thing. Black men don’t typically resonate with their beauty.  But, they are just that-beautiful.

For myself, as a 30+ year-old woman who grew up captivated with the beauty and strength of a very white Wonder Woman, this is a beautiful time for the black, female superhero to shine on the big screen, widening the frame of reference for little girls everywhere.  And, can we gloat about this being our chance to discuss science and the advancements in technology more as career paths rather than that which is not attainable or an association of black communities?  

Black History Month is representative of the ongoing pain, strength and triumph experienced by blacks in America. Black Panther presents the ideas of possibilities without restraint. Being black in America has been characterized by a wide range of defeat and oppression, yet our strength and beauty is something that has and can never be denied. So, as the months pass, and time moves on, while we are ensuring our children are protected and mindful of the harsh world in which they live, don’t forget to create space for them to celebrate and love their little black lives.

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