Throughout February in commemoration of Black History Month, I’m highlighting resources that celebrate Black Joy, Black Love, and Black Resistance. We are now 20 days into the challenge, and I hope you have had a chance to explore and enjoy the resources over the past two weeks. Although February ends in 8 days, I’m deliberately extending the challenge an additional 10 days! If you haven’t yet participated, I encourage you to join me in this challenge to thoughtfully learn, reflect, and engage.
I’ve curated a selection of resources for you to choose from, and I welcome you to email me any additional resource suggestions you may have. And please share your participation on social with the hashtag #BlackLoveBlackJoy.
This week, our focus is on Black Resistance.
Black Resistance is multi-faceted and has always been a part of the Black experience. There’s a narrative that’s been put forth which narrows the experiences of Black people to certain lenses. True resistance is understanding that there are complex layers to the Black experience. This is why we began with Black Joy and Black Love.
There’s also the literal resistance that’s happened in order to fight for progress. From the Civil Rights Movement, and Black Lives Matter protests, to the continuing work of the NAACP and other civil rights organizations, lived resistance has and continues to move us forward. That’s one of the reasons I hold an annual Birthday fundraiser, and for the past two years, it has been in support of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.
Resist the wave of deliberate miseducation and misinformation.
One of the biggest issues that demands resistance today is the deliberate push to remove the Black experience and Black history from schools (in Florida, for example) whether by limiting the number of approved Black History topics or banning certain books.
We can resist this through concerted efforts to educate ourselves, our friends and our families. First, consider checking out Books Unbanned, a project by the Brooklyn Public Library that allows teens to access banned books with a free BPL e-library card.
Second, read the 1619 Project, created by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, Nikole Hannah-Jones (love this selfie we took), which provides insight into and a history of the Black American experience. I also encourage you to watch the six-episode expansion of the original project, streaming on Hulu. My family and I have been watching it this month and we all have learned so much.
Another way I’ve done this is to visit places like the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, TN (where I met the Rev. Jesse Jackson this past summer) and the Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta, GA.
Finally, it is imperative that Black Resistance is exercised consistently through voting.
When it’s time to vote, we go as a family—my husband, my daughter, my son, and me. Part of why I do this is rooted in my experience growing up with my parents, who taught me, among other things, about the power of voting.
It’s important to be civically engaged in order to be aware of and activate the power of the Black vote and to fight the ongoing attempts at voter suppression and disenfranchisement.
Voting is just one of the many ways that individuals can make sure their voices are heard. Our vote has power.
Another aspect to voting is supporting Black candidates. I supported Stacy Abrams during her most recent campaign, and although she didn’t win, she did help galvanize voters—which helped Raphael Warnock win.
Higher Heights is an organization that supports Black women candidates and is a great organization to explore in addition to the NAACP LDF, to help counter the misinformation and miseducation.
As a Black woman, and a mother, I believe it’s also important to elevate awareness about Black Maternal Health. Black women are at a higher risk of experiencing maternal mortality than any other race, highlighting the need for change. There are many groups that are working to address this issue and raise awareness of this health crisis.. The Black Maternal Health Caucus is an excellent resource that has a list of 9 different organizations to check out. Organizations such as this are dedicated to reducing the racial disparities in maternal health outcomes, ensuring that Black mothers receive the care and support they need.
The struggle against discrimination based on natural hair is another aspect of the Black experience that deserves attention in the fight for Black resistance through authenticity. The CROWN Act is a crucial law that prohibits hair discrimination based on texture and style, and it has been successfully implemented in several states across the country. The CROWN Act, which stands for “Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair,” is a vital tool in the fight against race-based hair discrimination. It seeks to address the denial of employment and educational opportunities due to hair texture or protective hairstyles such as braids, locs, twists, or bantu knots. By outlawing this form of discrimination, the CROWN Act helps to create a more equitable world where Black individuals can express themselves freely and be respected for who they are.
As a Diversity and Inclusion Fellow for the American Bar Association’s Criminal Justice Section, I have been reminded of the importance of calling things what they are, and ensuring that our words and actions align. For example, rather than calling it the criminal justice system, when it is plagued by systemic injustices, it’s more accurate to refer to it as the criminal legal system. If you are a lawyer or law student, I encourage you to join us. This work is a critical part of advocacy and resistance. Continuing to learn more is one of the ways I demonstrate my commitment to strategic resistance.
Part of the injustices associated with the criminal legal system is the prison industrial complex and the school-to-prison pipeline. To learn more, read about initiatives that are challenging this system.
By learning more about these issues and actively participating in initiatives that challenge the criminal legal system, we can contribute to the broader fight for Black resistance. The work to dismantle systemic racism is not easy, but it is essential to creating a better future for Black people and all people of color.
Music has always been an essential part of Black Resistance, from slave spirituals and covert songs that included coded messages, to gospel, to protest songs, it has been a crucial aspect of the Black experience. Listening to the music created by Black artists is one way to celebrate their contributions. Listen to these two playlists on Spotify: BHM ’23: Resistance to Resilience and Black Resistance Power Playlist
Systemic racism creates barriers that limit Black people’s access to business opportunities, funding, and banking. Supporting Black-owned businesses is a powerful way to challenge these barriers and promote economic empowerment for Black communities. I encourage you to seek out Black-owned businesses in your local area and show them your support. One helpful resource is She Did That, which offers shopping guides to highlight Black-women owned businesses. You can also make a statement through the power of your dollars by boycotting spending money in states that enact legislation that disenfranchises and harms Black communities, as well as boycotting businesses that support these policies and politicians. By consciously choosing where we invest and spend our money, we empower Black Resistance and our demands for change.
Black Art is Resistance. When I read Octavia Butler’s Kindred, it was life-changing—and I was so excited to see they’d made it into an FX series that’s streaming on Hulu. Kindred is a seminal work of science fiction that explores themes of race, gender, and power. Although the show was canceled by FX in December 2022, the show’s creator, Brandon Jacob-Jenkins is reportedly going to shop the series to other networks.
Rest is resistance. Tricia Hersey started The Nap Ministry which advocates for rest as an act of resistance. She believes that rest is not just about taking naps (which I enjoy and strongly encourage), but about acknowledging the trauma and exhaustion that comes with being a Black person in America. In her own words, “My rest as a Black woman in America suffering from generational exhaustion and racial trauma always was a political refusal and social justice uprising within my body.” She sees rest as a way to resist societal pressure to constantly be productive, and to honor her ancestors whose dreams were stolen from them. The Nap Ministry encourages people to prioritize rest and recognizes it as a form of self-care and self-preservation. I prioritize this annually during my summer sabbatical which is my intentional practice to decompress and prepare for my work in the second half of the year (learn more about this here).
Finally, we come to allyship. Resistance cannot happen alone. Racism, bias and bigotry doesn’t only affect Black people. It impacts everyone. As such, it can’t be left to only Black people to address systemic racism and injustices. The ways in which it shows up are such that power, access, and privilege don’t lie with the people who’ve been most impacted by it. There needs to be acknowledgment and commitment—action couched as activism and allyship.
I’ll discuss this more in detail next week, with our final piece for Black History Month.
In the meantime, here are some extra resources for you to explore:
- A Black-owned T-Shirt company
- An article about Black leaders in Tech
- The Piano Lesson by August Wilson (I saw this recently and loved it)
- Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower
P.S. This article detailing the shared American history of the Woodson family as one of the colony’s original slave owning families and the Black side of their family who were formerly enslaved and whose prominent descendant was Carter G. Woodson, the man who created Negro History Week (now Black History Month) was FASCINATING. I WAS RIVETED! Please read and let me know your thoughts!