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Expand your Understanding of Black History & Culture

As you probably know, February is Black History Month in the United States...

By Josephine Christian, Associate – Consulting, Technology & Services Practice, Sheffield Haworth

As you probably know, February is Black History Month in the United States. It’s a time of celebration but also of reflection, and all too often of anger at some of the injustices that remain in our country. It’s a matter of great personal frustration that whenever I feel I might be able to relax a little and focus on the positives of Black History Month, something happens as a stark reminder of those injustices.

So it has proved as I write this. Again, it can be a struggle not to let politics dominate what I have to say. What I will say is this: Understanding how we got to where we are today is pivotal to keeping American history factual and our neighbors educated, to prevent history from repeating itself. Black history is a story of perseverance, strength, and courage.

One of the best ways to celebrate Black History Month is therefore to deepen your understanding of the African American experience. Take the time to research, recognize, and share the stories of trailblazers, leadership, and tragedy with all generations, colleagues and family members. It’s a great way to promote equity and awareness.

This year we challenge you to visit African American museums, examine African American art exhibitions, see live plays, and musicals, and support Black-owned businesses. The objective is to engage with African American history and culture to better understand what Blacks have endured, fought for, accomplished, and continue to battle in search of equality and equity.

Visiting museums

In compiling a list of all the museums in the 50 states that relate to African American history or culture, we found come interesting anomalies. There are a total of 110 such museums located in the United States. At first this seemed great, because it would mean that wherever you are in the United States reading this, you would have your own local museum to visit without having to trek to the east or west coasts.

However… turns out the spread of museums is like peanut butter in a badly-made sandwich. There are some spots where you get a lot, and others where there is none at all.

Get this: Alabama has eight museums. Florida has 10 and Louisiana has nine. All three states have more Black themed museums than New York (seven), California (six) or Washington DC (five). Yet 18 of our 50 states do not have a single African American museum. Not one!

Heck, even Nebraska, Idaho, and Iowa each have one museum that showcases Black history and/or prominent Black figures, so their absence in other states is difficult to justify. WE NEED TO DO BETTER.

Here is a list of African American Museums in their respective states:

Musicals, plays & dance

During the 2022-2023 seasons there are plenty of on- and off-Broadway plays, musicals, and dance companies you can see about African American culture, the African American experience, or that simply show off Black talent. Performing arts are a great way of exposing us to new experiences and perspectives in ways that can entertain while changing minds.

  • Aint No Mo’ produced by Lee Daniels
  • Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations
  • A Soldier’s Play by Charles Fuller
  • Tina: The Tina Turner Musical
  • Alvin Ailey – Revelations
  • Dance Theatre of Harlem
  • Some Like It Hot
  • Memphis – the Musical
  • The Color Purple: The Musical
  • Topdog/Underdog, Suzan-Lori Parks’ Pulitzer Prize-winning play
  • The Piano Lesson, August Wilson classic play
  • MJ: The Musical
  • A Strange Loop by Michael R. Jackson
  • Ohio State Murders, Kenny Leon-directed mystery
  • National Black Theatre Announces 2022-2023 Season Featuring Three World Premiere Productions:
  • Skeleton Crew by Dominique Morisseau
  • Thoughts Of A Colored Man By Keenan Scott II
  • Chicken & Biscuits by Douglas Lyons
  • Trouble in Mind Motown Revue Hitzville: The Show
  • Purple Reign
  • Clyde’s by Lynn Nottage
  • Lackawanna Blues by Ruben Santiago-Hudson

For more information, check out this list:

Supporting Black-owned businesses in your community

Through much of American history, Blacks were not able to participate in generating wealth because they were seen as property and were “the product” that generated wealth for the country/whites.

Unable to own land. Excluded from home ownership. Not allowed to have a business or go to school and become educated. No voting rights. Not being seen as equal was the foundational ideal that prevented Blacks from creating wealth.

Today, the average Black family has between one-eighth and one-ninth of the wealth of the median White family. One very practical way to show support to your Black neighbors is to buy from Black-owned businesses this month and all year round.

We’re not saying to buy only from Black-owned businesses. But in your community there are probably a host of businesses that you don’t support with your custom, but which you could with a little more focus and mindfulness.

Here is a list Black-owned businesses to help get you started:

Even the smallest action can make a difference

In America it often seems as though our communities are more divided and angry than ever. This is not always the case and it sure doesn’t have to be true in the future. If Black history is something you care about – or would like to know more about – try one of the suggestions in this article and see what happens. Even the smallest action, the smallest change, can make a big difference in the long run.