Black History Month: 5 Easy, Meaningful Ways to Reflect
Black History Month is a time of both celebration and reflection. During Black History Month, we not only look back on the many contributions of Black people, but we also look inward to discover ways to improve our understanding of Black history and forward toward what we can do to support Black communities.
This may seem overwhelming, and you may ask: “Where can I start?”
To get you going, we’ve come up with five simple ways to incorporate a few moments of reflection on Black history into your daily routines.
1. Tune in
If you love unwinding in front of the TV after a long day, consider choosing a Black story during your nightly ritual. A documentary or biopic about an inspirational Black figure is a great way to learn while you lounge. If you’re less into history, consider a movie made by a Black creator. Many streaming services have curated collections of films highlighted for Black History Month, making it a breeze to get started. Here are some of our favorites:
For the history buff:
- “Selma,” directed by Ava DuVernay, 2014
- “The Great Debaters,” directed by Denzel Washington, 2007
- “12 Years a Slave,” directed by Steve McQueen, 2013
- “Eyes on the Prize,” produced by Blackside for PBS, 1987
For fans of war movies:
- “Red Tails,” co-directed by Anthony Hemingway, 2012
- “Men of Honor,” directed by George Tillman, Jr., 2000
For the sports fanatic:
- “Coach Carter,” directed by Thomas Carter, 2005
- “Glory Road,” with Derek Luke, 2006
- “Remember the Titans,” with Denzel Washington, 2000
- “Hoop Dreams,” directed by Steve James, 1994
For the film nerd:
- “Black Girl,” directed by Ousmane Sembène, 1966
- “Daughters of the Dust,” directed by Julie Dash, 1991
For the local yokel:
- “When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts,” directed by Spike Lee, 2006
- “Cane River,” directed by Horace Jenkins, 1982
- “Faubourg Tremé: The Untold Story of Black New Orleans,” 2008, written by Lolis Eric Elie
2. Cozy up
Cuddling up with a good book more your style? The possibilities are endless. From immersing yourself in a first-hand account of Black life through a memoir to learning about Black cuisine, there is something for everyone. Extra credit if you ditch Amazon and make your purchase from a local Black-owned bookstore. Not only will you be supporting Black businesses and boosting the local economy, experts at your local bookseller can also help you make the perfect selection for your interests. Here are our picks:
For the fiction reader:
- “Song of Solomon,” by Toni Morrison, 1977
- “Sing, Unburied, Sing,” by Jesmyn Ward, 2017
For the memoir lover:
- “A Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood,” by Ta-Nehisi Coates, 2008
- “How to Be Black,” by Baratunde Thurston, 2012
- “Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body,” by Roxane Gay, 2017
- “Notes from No Man’s Land: American Essays,” by Eula Biss, 2009
For the humorist:
- “The Misadventures of an Awkward Black Girl,” by Issa Rae, 2015
- “We are Never Meeting in Real Life,” by Samantha Irby, 2017
For the home chef:
- “In Bibi's Kitchen: The Recipes and Stories of Grandmothers,” by Hawa Hassan and Julia Turshen, 2020
- “The Dookie Chase Cookbook,” by Leah Chase, 1990
For lovers of lore:
- “Mules and Men,” by Zora Neale Hurston, 1935
- “The Annotated African American Folktales,” edited by Henry Louis Gates, Jr., 2017
For the poets and playwrights at heart:
- “A Street in Bronzeville,” by Gwendolyn Brooks, 1945
- “And Still I Rise,” by Maya Angelou, 1978
- “Montage of a Dream Deferred,” by Langston Hughes, 1951
- “Don’t Call Us Dead,” by Danez Smith, 2017
- “Pleasure Dome,” by Yusef Komunyakaa, 2001
- “To Be Young, Gifted and Black,” by Lorraine Hansberry, 1968
For the history buff:
- “The Half Has Never Been Told,” by Edward E. Baptist, 2016
- “The Warmth of Other Suns,” by Isabel Wilkerson, 2010
- “Thurgood Marshall: American Revolutionary,” by Juan Williams, 1998
- “The New Jim Crow,” by Michelle Alexander, 2020
- “America In the King Years: A Trilogy,” by Taylor Branch
3. Get inspired
Who doesn’t love a bit of inspiration? If you typically listen to the radio during your drive to work or while running errands, consider tuning in to Black history. From spoken-word poems to jazz music and energizing speeches, Black history is full of inspirational leaders and messages that lift us up. The power of these words can take root and live on in our hearts and minds for years to come. Poets like Langston Hughes and Maya Angelou have helped encourage and influence many generations with their words, and many of us are familiar with Dr. King’s famous "I Have a Dream" speech. Consider these other ways to get inspired as well:
- Read Sojourner Truth’s "Ain't I a Woman?" speech or listen to a reading of it.
- Listen to poetry recordings by Black poets, like Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman or the legendary Maya Angelou.
- Queue up Spotify and jam out to the tunes of your favorite Black musician.
- Check out this compilation of speeches to hear perspectives from a variety of Black voices in history, presented by American Public Media.
4. Make bedtime a celebration
One of the easiest ways for your entire family to learn about Black history is to read a bedtime story together. Celebrating Black history with the next generation during bedtime reading is a great way to connect with kids about big topics in a safe and welcoming environment. Check out some of our favorites – they’re great for adults, too!
For the little scientists:
- “Have You Thanked an Inventor Today?” by Patrice McLaurin, 2016
- “Ada Twist, Scientist,” by Andrea Beaty, 2016
For the old souls:
- “Juneteenth for Mazie,” by Floyd Cooper, 2015
- “The Year We Learned to Fly,” by Jacqueline Woodson, 2022
For the ones who love heroes:
- “Little Legends: Exceptional Men in Black History” and “Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History,” by Vashti Harrison
- “The True Story of Ruby Bridges,” by Arlisha Norwood Alston, PhD, 2021
- “Flying High: The Story of Gymnastics Champion Simone Biles,” by Michelle Meadows, 2020
For kids who love fairytales:
- “The People Could Fly: American Black Folktales,” by Virginia Hamilton, 1993
- “Beautiful Blackbird,” by Ashley Bryan, 2003
For the mini musicians:
- “Jazz on a Saturday Night,” by Leo and Diane Dillon, 2007
- “Nina: A Story of Nina Simone,” by Traci N. Todd, 2021
- “Ben’s Trumpet,” by Rachel Isadora, 1991
5. Talk to a friend
Dr. King once said that “our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” Having thoughtful conversations is key to most things in life: When we listen, we learn. Having meaningful talks with loved ones can lead to better relationships and mutual understanding. Consider these ideas to spark the conversation:
- Share with a friend or colleague something new you learned about Black history this month and invite them to share something interesting they learned as well.
- Start a Black movie or book club with friends or neighbors.
- Make an effort to spark a conversation with someone of a different race, ethnicity or background as you. Share your cultures, perspectives and traditions together.
We hope these simple ideas for reflection help foster a renewed appreciation for the time that our nation has set aside to remember Black history.
To learn more about Black culture at Ochsner, visit our African Americans Building & Leading Equality (ABLE) resource group homepage.
Or you may contribute to the ABLE Innovation Fund to further our vision of advancing diversity and inclusion in our workplaces and communities.