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10 ways UMaine students can continue highlighting black voices after Black History Month

Since 1976, February has served as the United States national recognition of Black history. Every February, social media becomes flooded with insightful text posts, black history-centric programming becomes heavily featured, and for 28 days there is heightened effort to promote the work of black minds. While this is a critical effort to recognizing marginalized voices, once the calendar moves forward, it is important to make sure these voices aren’t taken out of the spotlight.

The following are ten ways to celebrate black history throughout the year.

Start a conversation
One of the best and easiest ways to recognize and learn about black history is to prioritize the voices of black people in your life. Ask them what they think you should know, how they feel about American history and who they currently admire in the community. This one is easy because it only requires you to practice active listening.

Educate yourself and your friends
Look for new events hosted by the Black Student Union on campus; they host fun and educational events which can provide insight into black culture and history. Or take your education into your own hands and host a “study” session. On a stack of index cards, write the names of important figures and events in black history. On the other side explain their impact, then take turns reading descriptions and learning more about black culture and history. This can be modified to fit the setting or subject, but it is a good way to absorb history and have fun with your friends.

Support black nonprofit organizations
Skip one cup of coffee a month and invest that money into a nonprofit which supports marginalized groups. The organization Black Girls Code works to promote young women of color in technology by providing them with the tools and education they need to succeed. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) is a civil rights organization, headquartered in Baltimore, Maryland, formed to advance justice for African Americans, eliminate race-based discrimination and to ensure the political, educational, social and economic equality of rights. Campaign Zero is another great organization that works towards minimizing police violence through increased accountability, improving community interactions and limiting police interventions.

Explore how your favorite music genre benefited from black musicians
While jamming out in your car to Beyoncé or Prince, take time to recognize how black artists have played a large role in creating the music we love. Due to the appropriation of black culture, including music by white culture over the course of history, their contributions extend further than one might realize. Blues, jazz, rock ‘n’ roll, rap and even a lot of current pop stemmed from African-American origins. Never forget to make sure you’re on the lookout for black artists you haven’t heard of.

Learn about black history’s unrecognized heroes
Take a moment during your lunch break or your morning Instagram scroll to learn more about an unsung hero of black history. If you don’t know where to start, learn about the work of Nannie Helen Burroughs or Ella Baker. At the 1900s National Baptist Convention in Virginia, Nannie Helen Burroughs, a religious leader, civil rights activist and feminist, gave a famous and transformative speech titled “How the Sisters Are Hindered from Helping,” which was considered essential to the civil rights movement. While her speech gave Burroughs momentary fame, Ella Baker worked for five decades behind the scenes of the movement, playing an integral role in many influential organizations and events, including with the NAACP and Martin Luther King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

Visit a museum that highlights black history
Next time you’re in Washington D.C., check out the National Museum of African American History & Culture, a Smithsonian Institution museum which attempts to view American history through the lens of the African American experience. The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute promotes a comprehensive understanding of the struggles of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s and 1960s. Founded in 1968, the Charles Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit, Michigan houses the world’s largest permanent exhibit on African American culture.

Actively consume media produced by black creators
Listen to “2 Dope Queens,” a podcast hosted by Jessica Williams and Phoebe Robinson which has led to a new HBO series. Watch “Blackish,” an ABC sitcom which creates an important social and political commentary on the complexities of being black in modern America. Read the work of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, the Nigerian novelist who wrote “Purple Hibiscus,” “Half of a Yellow Sun” and “Americanah.”

Learn about the African diaspora
The African diaspora refers to the scattering of African descendants around the world due to the Transatlantic Slave Trades, from the 1500s to the 1800s. This diaspora transported millions of people from Western and Central Africa to different regions throughout the Americas and the Caribbean. The largest populations of people descended from those who were forcibly transported from Africa are in Brazil and the United States, totaling about 80 million people.

Support black businesses owners
Next time you’re on the hunt for the perfect gift, maybe skip Target and search for a small business to support. The 2010 U.S. Census Bureau says that black or African American people only make up less than 2 percent of Maine’s population. While this might make the task of finding a black-owned business to support a little more difficult, it makes it even more important.

Share on social media
In our current climate, sometimes a post on social media can inspire a conversation or a question. A tweet or share can act as a catalyst for interest and understanding. While it is important to further your efforts offline, that doesn’t mean sharing a post on social media isn’t beneficial. Follow a black activist, journalist or politician and give them a wider audience by sharing their posts. Look critically at who you follow, what they stand for and how they influence your opinion.

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