Black History Month 2017: My Syllabus

I’ve taken quite seriously for a long time, especially on this blog, that belief and faith are both expressed in culture and also learned there. Most of what I end up writing about on this site is pop-culture – movies, tv shows, coffee shops and holiday seasons. This is because what we consume and participate in, sometimes inadvertently, shapes who we are and what we believe about the world and each other.

Tomorrow begins Black History Month, celebrated every February. There are a lot of great ways to celebrate this month and to expand our horizons of what we know and understand of the history of our Black brothers and sisters. It’s not an excuse to ignore Black History or Black stories for the rest of the year, but an opportunity to focus and be intentional about remembering things we’ve implicitly been taught are better to forget.

I have chosen a cultural, immersive approach to being educated this month. For me, this is an opportunity to intentionally curate what I’m going to be shaped by in the Month of February. I’ve chosen an audacious amount of things to really challenge myself to take this seriously. 

I call this my Black History Month syllabus because it is a personal educational journey, and because it is unique to me and what is missing from my understanding and education. I’ve seen, read, and experienced a lot. But February is the month that I’m going to intentionally fill in the gaps with some of the best film, television, literature, and history the world has to offer related to Black History and contemporary Black experience.

With that, here is my syllabus:

(4) books:

“The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism” by Edward E Baptist

“Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?” by Beverly Daniel Tatum

“Democracy in Black: How Race Still Enslaves the American Soul” by Eddie S Glaude Jr.

“Walking With the Wind: a Memoir of the Movement” by John Lewis

(6) films – all focused on Black History, with an emphasis on Black storytellers (though there are two White directors) 

Malcolm X (Spike Lee)

Glory (Edward Zwick)

I Am Not Your Negro (Raoul Peck)

Fruitvale Station (Ryan Coogler)

OJ: Made in America (Ezra Edelman)

Loving (Jeff Nichols)

(1) TV Series

Atlanta (Donald Glover)

Additional Resources:

Short stories, poems and essays from black authors like Langston Hughes, W.E.B. DuBois, etc. 

Podcasts focused on racial concerns, like “Code Switch” and “Black Men Can’t Jump in Hollywood”.

Friends, I share this with you for two reasons. 

First, so that now I am accountable to this. It’s not wishful thinking or something I hope I can do. I’m committed to this, and want you all to make sure I follow through. I plan to write a reflection on this experience in early March, even if it takes me that long to finish. 

Second, I hope you’ll join me somehow. Make your own list, or just pick one or two of these things to experience this month and let’s have a conversation about it! In the comments section, or over a cup of coffee. 

We simply have to start carving out space to hear stories different from our own. This is one small way I’m trying to do that.

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