3 Ways You Can Empower Your Black Friends During Black History Month
Take this Black History Month, as a Black person or non-Black person, to reflect on what progress has been made, as well as how much further we need to go. Don’t isolate your Black friends, and if you’re Black, don’t hide your Blackness.
Yesterday marked the first day of Black History Month, and this year (more than ever) black voices need to be elevated.
Last week, Google launched their first Black History Month commercial, showcasing the top searches that honored Black excellence. The commercial featured Black icons such Barack Obama, Beyonce, Simone Biles, and Prince. As a Black, female millennial becoming an adult during the Trump administration, I was humbled that Google acknowledged their privilege and used it to educate non-Blacks, which brought awareness to Black accomplishments and portrayed us as achievers. There was no mention of Black Lives Matter. No news footage of violent protests was shown. There was nothing about black struggle.
In Google creating this progressive commercial, I think this is a start to lifting Black narratives and putting them on the forefront of culture. While this was a great success for Black people, because we were acknowledged in such a positive way, it shouldn’t stop here. I think progress also needs to be made on a micro-level as well, because this commercial doesn’t erase the discrimination Black people face daily.
It’s 2020 and time for a change. Here are 3 ways you can empower your black friends (even if you are black) during Black History Month:
1. Support your local Black businesses
After graduating college and returning home to my native Maryland, I didn’t realize until recently that I was living in a gold mine of local Black businesses. As a newly-published Black writer, my searches for bookstores accepting new books and had the ability to host events lead me to a wonderland of Black-owned community spaces. Once I searched what seemed like every corner of the internet for Black businesses in D.C., I expanded to New York, Los Angeles, and Atlanta. In this journey of searching for local Black businesses, I learned that feeding into large corporations only silence the little guys because the big corporations are hungry for money. But your local businesses want to build a community and provide a haven for those in the community. Some of my favorite Black businesses in D.C. are: Ben’s Chili Bowl, Sankofa, and Oohs & Aahh's.
2. Allow your Black friends to express themselves. Don’t tell them they are wrong for feeling the way they do, just because you don’t think their feelings are valid.
This is the most important one because in order to unite, we first have to listen and understand. If one of your Black friends is upset because they’re experiencing unfair treatment at work, don’t tell them that they’re “overreacting. It’s not that bad.” It’s not that bad, because you don’t understand what it’s like to have someone undermine you just because you’re Black. It’s not that bad because you’ve never been challenged on a topic you’re well-educated on, but because you are Black, you’re made to feel uneducated. Listen. Keep an open heart. Even ask what you can do to make your Black friend feel heard in the future. Be an ally, not an accomplice.
3. Share your Black friends’ accomplishments on social media.
It’s free and easy. If you have Black friends who are artists, share their work. If one of your Black friends has just been accepted into grad school, post about it. Did your Black friend get a new car? Tweet about it. There is no shame in openly supporting your Black friends. If you ever feel guilty for posting about your Black friends’ accomplishments, maybe take a step back and think your own values over. Would you want someone to not share your work and help you get exposure, just because of who you are?
Take this Black History Month, as a Black person or a non-Black person, to reflect on what progress has been made, as well as how much further we need to go. Don’t isolate your Black friends, and if you’re Black, don’t hide your Blackness. Your Blackness is a beautiful gift.