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Towards a More Meaningful Black History Month

by Kimberley Barker on 2021-02-17T12:47:00-05:00 | Comments

(image credit: DJ Diamond Collective, via Facebook)

This post was written by Kate Joshua (she/her/hers) and edited by Kimberley Barker.

I challenge you to do more this Black History Month than simply retweet a quote of MLK’s or brag about watching Remember the Titans for the 50th time (It IS a great movie, though, and if you haven't watched it, you should!). I challenge you to make space for those sticky feelings of discomfort that creep up in conversations about race, and about Black Americans, in particular. Since we're being responsible and staying at home because of the pandemic, it’s the perfect time to do educate ourselves and to sit with what we learn. Read, watch, listen, learn, and elevate Black voices in the process.

I encourage you to do your own research, but I wanted to share a few things that have affected me in the last month. And don’t worry if you can’t cram it all in before February 28th—Black history is American history, so Black History Month can last all year, every year.

Do you have suggestions of your own? I’m always grateful for recommendations. Do you want to discuss any of mine? I’d be grateful for that opportunity too! Contact me at katej@virginia.edu.

Uncomfortable Conversations w/ a Black Man
2020-present, Emmanual Acho - You can watch these videos on Youtube, or directly on Emmanual Acho’s website.

Emmanual Acho believes that stopping the spread of racism starts with having conversations about race, especially those that make us uncomfortable. This series features some big names, but the biggest draw is watching people whom we put on a pedestal deal with the discomfort that comes with real change.

TED Talk: The Problem with Race-Based Medicine
2016, Professor Dorothy Roberts, JD -Watch on Youtube

Just because this talk happened 5 years ago, it isn't any less searing. Professor Dorothy Roberts is a sociologist and law professor who explains the ramifications of race-based medicine and how it’s still being practiced today. It might seem obvious, but Roberts clarifies how dangerous these practices are, not just for BIPOC, but for healthcare and medicine in general. Check out Professor Roberts’ other articles and books on race, gender, and the law.

I Am Somebody
1970, directed by Madeline Anderson -Available on Amazon Prime for $1.99

This documentary follows a 1969 strike at a South Carolina hospital whose discriminatory practices were no secret. This film shares the struggles of 400+ black, female hospital workers as they stand up for the right to unionize and be paid fair wages. This 30-minute film is short but you’ll be thinking about it long after the credits roll. I suggest checking out Madeline Anderson’s other documentaries, particularly “Integration Report One” ($3.99 on Vimeo). In 2015 Anderson was finally credited with being the first African American woman to direct a documentary.

A Terrible Thing to Waste: Environmental Racism and Its Assault on the American Mind

2019, Harriet Washington -Available in eBook and print formats via JMRL and UVA Virgo, and for purchase from Amazon and other book retailers.

Written by a bioethicist, this book tackles how people of color suffer disproportionately during environmental crises. Science-writer Washington acknowledges that while IQ is not a perfect surrogate marker of cognitive function, it helps us understand the toxic effects environmental racism has on the development of poorer black and indigenous people of color.

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