Black History Month 2023 in Review
Black History Month 2023 began with the funeral of a Black man beaten to death by Memphis police and ended with an uproar about a racist rant on YouTube by the Dilbert comic strip’s creator.
In between, a controversy burned over whether a revised Advanced Placement course about African American studies was steered by political interference rather than historians’ judgments.
Those headlines are strong evidence that Black Americans’ progress remains slow and they are fighting the same battles they fought 50 or 60 years ago. Economic and health disparities are widening, and racism and discrimination and injustice are still prevalent in our society.
“Black people have had to consistently push the United States to live up to its ideals of freedom, liberty, and justice for all,” says the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH), the organization that has chosen the themes for Black History Month and its predecessor, Black History Week, every year since 1926 when it was first created by Black historian, Carter G. Woodson. The organization and others strongly feel that celebrating Black Americans’ progress and successes is also an important part of Black resistance and doing so combats racist narratives and creates paths to further achievements.
For example, students at historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) were at the forefront of the Civil Rights Movement, the Black Power Movement and social justice movements from the 19 to the 21 centuries, ASALH points out.
Black athletes, especially in the NBA and the WNBA, have used their celebrity to advocate for social issues and political agendas, the association observes.
Black artists, writers, photographers and musicians created art that supported resistance movements but also created a space for Black people to express love and joy.
In that vein, many Black History Month observances posted online this year also struck thoughtful, celebratory and aspirational notes, the team at SRB Communications found in a sampling of cultural, corporate and media offerings. Some spotlighted Black History Month values such as promoting support for Black-owned businesspeople, the importance of incorporating Black role models in elementary school classes and respect for Black achievers past and present. Here are examples that we especially liked.
Target: Black is Our History, Now and Future
In this feature, Target touts its partnerships with Black businesses and entrepreneurs year-round. It has committed to spend more than $2 billion with Black-owned businesses by the end of 2025. “Our goal for Black History Month 2023? To inspire today and create spaces for the Black creators of tomorrow to grow and flourish,” Target says.
Jax Today opinion: The real-life implications of erasing history
Writer and mother, Nikesha Elise Williams, explains why schools need to incorporate diversity in classroom projects by way of turning her son’s writing assignment into an object lesson for educators. The subject was American heroes, and her son chose Neil Armstrong. She encouraged him to write about a Black person, but no Black astronauts were on the teacher’s list even though there are some. Nor was Barack Obama. Williams’s point? Parents who identify as a minority will have an easier time convincing their children to take pride in the contributions of people who look like them if teachers build diversity into school projects, she writes in Jacksonville Today.
Black Enterprise Spotlights Past and Present
Black Enterprise magazine’s approach combines entertaining facts about long-ago events in Black history with contemporary stories about Black entrepreneurs finding success in diverse fields.
The Most Searched: A Celebration of Black History Makers
Google spotlights Black American celebrities and famous moments in this 1-½-minute YouTube video. U.S.-based Google Trends Data was used to identify Black American achievements that were searched more than any others between January 1, 2004, when the data first became available, and July 1, 2019.