How 9 People Are Celebrating Black History Month How 9 People Are Celebrating Black History Month

How 9 People Are Celebrating Black History Month

by Akili King

It’s that illustrious time of the year again. During Black History Month, melanin unapologetically floods our timelines, archives of black people’s most jubilant moments are revisited, and so many glorious black inventors and innovators are finally acknowledged. Our hearts and minds are filled with gratitude for, and reflection upon those who have selflessly fought for equality as well as for our voices to be clearly heard. Although we have come a long way from 1926’s “Black History Week,” Black History Month has unfortunately been relegated to February, the shortest month of the year. This does not stop us from continuing to celebrate ourselves and our ancestors outside of these restrictive boundaries. This month can be used as a motivator and reminder of the work yet to be done. It is also a time that symbolizes just how momentous black people truly are. No matter how much adversity we continue to face and have faced throughout history, we always find a way to elegantly and creatively use our challenges to strengthen and benefit us. In commemoration of this time, I had the privilege of chatting with some of today’s young, gifted, and black creatives — who are paving new roads for themselves and those who follow — about their thoughts on the month, how they are choosing to celebrate, and who their historical, and present black inspirations are. Here’s to the celebration of a majestic culture now and always.

MARJON CARLOS, WRITER

“In my line of work, I am often thinking rather critically about race and how we solve issues of inclusivity in fashion. But Black History Month is such a celebratory time for me. I relish in our deep history and unyielding strength, and honor my ancestors for paving the way —after all, I’m their wildest dream. To celebrate the month, I honestly love finding incredible moments in black history and examples of black joy and sharing them with people online. A video of Ciara dancing in the snow to Mase, or a deep cut interview with a saucy Nina Simone may seem like ephemera, but, in fact, they are indelible markers of our cultural impact. Circulating these moments so quickly to one another reinforces a certain knowingness of the black experience that immediately creates intimacy and community. You immediately feel a sense of pride and belonging…. Oh, and I’ll be going to see Black Panther because Wakanda 4EVER. There are so many inspirations! Aren’t we a chosen people?! To name a few: Michelle and Barack, Malcolm X, Zadie Smith, Oprah, Donna Summers, Miriam Makeba, Phyllis Wheatley, Elaine Brown, Assata Shakur, June Jordan, Gabrielle Union, Ava DuVernay, Rihanna, Maxine Waters, Billie Holiday, James Baldwin, Sally Hemmings. I could go on! And while they all went down in history for so many different things, they thrived against all odds…and for that, I am indebted and inspired.”

Photo: Courtesy of Marjon Carlos

 

TRAVIS BASORA, ACTOR/MODEL

“Black History Month is a time to honor and appreciate everyone that came before me. It’s a celebration of all black people’s accomplishments and triumphs. I celebrate being black every day, and black history is created daily. I celebrate differently every year — reading books, watching documentaries, and telling other people who might not be aware of how much black people have accomplished about black history, especially in this country. Some people who inspire me are Muhammad Ali, Dead Prez, and my mom. Muhammad Ali is especially inspiring to me because as an athlete and black man, he showed me you can stand up for what is right, and that sports aren’t the only thing that I can do if I want to be successful. I’m inspired by Dead Prez because of their album Let’s Get Free. They speak about everything I believe in like the school system, health, being African. My mom inspires me because she brought me into this world when she was 19 and showed me that anything is possible when she went back to school. And she continues to be an inspiration to me daily in every way.”

Photo: Courtesy of https://www.instagram.com/travis.be/

 

NATALIE WRIGHT, ENTREPRENEUR

“Black History Month represents this beautiful marriage between trial and triumph. It’s a celebration of our deeply rich cultural excellence and a reverence toward a painful past. It can be a bit solemn, in that there is so much suffering tied to our existence. That said, Black History Month highlights our joy – and joy is unwavering. Joy is reflected in our humor…aka black twitter, despite current politics and racial climates. Joy is our style, despite cultural appropriation. Black History Month is that yearly pep-rally where we unify, regardless of industry, interest, or affiliation, and relish in our current and past successes as a people, despite said adversity. It’s optimistic and forward-thinking. My goal this month is to make sure I revisit a classic black book like Native Son, or something by Bell Hooks or Toni Morrison. Black people are shining right now. It’s absolutely glorious. So many black people are shattering glass ceilings and busting open doors that have previously been bolted shut. People who inspire me, historically speaking, are Stokely Carmichael, Angela Davis, and MLK. These leaders of the civil rights movement suffered and fought valiantly for black people — albeit with different approaches — with eloquence and style. We just have this grace to us. Jean Baptiste du Sable inspires me, because, Chicago. Lonnie Johnson because a black person invented the super soaker and nerf gun…that is so LIT! Beyoncé also inspires me for modeling work ethic. That’s my biggest takeaway. It just so happens that she’s an amazing entertainer – but if she had chosen any other field, she would have excelled in the same way because of her relentless work ethic. I’m learning this lesson right now, so it’s really inspiring to me. She is very kind-hearted, but a fighter and shamelessly black!”

Photo: Courtesy of Natalie Wright

 

SATCHEL LEE, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, DRØME

“Black History Month reminds me of being in lower school. February 1st would roll around the corner, our teachers would give their tired talk about Martin Luther King Jr., and for the rest of the month I felt the resentful eyes of my white classmates staring at my back. At the end of a lesson, a hand would shoot up and ask the same question, “What about white history month”? I’m celebrating Black History Month by taking time to think of my ancestors. I thank them for their work and strength and everything they did to get me to where I am. I celebrate Black History Month by continuing to push myself to work and love harder. I remind everyone I meet that black women are the most educated group of people in this country and that if it weren’t for us, we’d be in an even bigger mess than we are now. You’re welcome. Lately I’ve been really enjoying learning about Zelda Wynn Valdes, who was the entrepreneur and designer who created the original Playboy Bunny costumes. She was a badass. She opened the first black-owned business on Broadway in 1948 and designed pieces for all the greats like Ella Fitzgerald, Mae West, Josephine Baker, and Dorothy Dandridge. I’m inspired by her for a couple of reasons. She was a groundbreaking business woman, which is aspirational in itself, but her work was about making women feel beautiful and sexy. She empowered them to feel glamorous in their own skin, and I think that’s one of the greatest things you can do for someone.”

Photo: Courtesy of https://www.instagram.com/satchellee/

 

ALEXANDER-JULIAN GIBSON, SOCIAL MANAGER, GQ

“I think BHM is a time when we’re able to look back at all we and our ancestors have been through and to honor what they’ve done so that we could survive. It’s a time to take pride in what we’ve done since then, and come together to further the excellence. I celebrate BHM like I do every month, to be honest. It’s about being proud of all we’ve done despite the odds, and plotting how to continue to succeed — which is pretty much on my agenda every day. People like Edward Enninful, Issa Rae, Ava Duvernay, Beyoncé, Kamala Harris, Chadwick Boseman, President Obama, and Rihanna, inspire me because they are the manifestation of our ancestors’ dreams. They are what we’ve bled for. They are monuments, but they are no different from any other great musician, editor, actor, or politician (except Beyoncé, she’s magic for real). The reason they are so important for us, and our culture, is because they show us what we are capable of. They are the new role models, and they give every little black boy and girl the idea that they can do it too. There was a time when young black children only had a finite number of careers that they could aspire towards. These people and every other black person thriving while doing what they love have opened up that spectrum for black youth. They’ve inspired a generation that now truly believes they can do whatever they put their mind to.”

Photo: Courtesy of https://www.instagram.com/alexanderjulian/

 

ZURI MARLEY, MUSICIAN

“Black History Month means other people get to learn things we already know about how f*cking dope we are! I actually have been getting a lot more into Jamaican culture. I was born and raised there, but there is a rich history there that aids having a positive mentality. That’s what I’ve been trying to channel. People who inspire me are Bob Marley, Eartha Kitt, Tracy Chapman, Surya Bonaly, and all the women in my family. All these people are weird and different, and show me that it doesn’t matter what you look like. I’m really inspired by people who broke boundaries by being themselves and being outside of stereotypical norms. I’m also really inspired by black chefs. I don’t know many by name, but that love inspires me!”

Photo: Courtesy of https://www.instagram.com/zuri/

 

QUIL LEMONS, PHOTOGRAPHER

“I mean! I feel Black History Month should be every day! I feel the Month is cool, but black people should be celebrated for their accolades daily! I’m celebrating Black History Month by just being black! It’s such a cool time to be black in America. I feel there’s like a second renaissance happening right now, so I’m just being as black as I can be. Is there a right way to celebrate? In terms of inspiration, I’m definitely a baby of Childish Gambino! He’s always just being himself. He really put us weird black boys on the map. I also high-key cannot wait for Atlanta to start up again. Honestly, I would love to follow in his career footsteps; he just does what he wants creatively. Gambino is a legend! ”

Photo: Courtesy of Quil Lemons

 

SHYDEIA CALDWELL, FOUNDER, BLACK GIRL MAGIK

“Black History Month should be celebrated all year round and fused into the academic material of our future and current generation. I want to progress into a time period where black history is not compressed into the shortest month of the year. I’m proud to say I feel that shift happening with the people around me. Black History Month for me means being proud of who I am and celebrating the past, present, and future of blackness. I am celebrating this month by exploring what the future of Black Girl Magik will be and how I can make BGM as transnational as possible. I believe its so important to connect the dots of POC communities across the globe. My current way of communally celebrating is creating communal spaces with BUFU and Princess Nokia for Black History Month. I am honestly inspired by so many black people right now. I’m inspired by any black person doing work for the betterment and advancement of our communities, selves, and space in this world.”

Photo: Courtesy of Shydeia Caldwell

 

KAMI, MUSICIAN

“I think Black History Month is an important cultural reminder of what African Americans had to endure in America. I celebrate Black History Month by honoring and reflecting on all of the cultural leaders who helped improve conditions for African Americans…and I’m gonna go see Black Panther. My inspirations are MALCOLM X, MLK, Fela Kuti, Nelson Mandela, Sidney Poitier, Bob Marley, and Will Smith. These people inspire me because they were pioneers in their fields and were DIRECTLY responsible for changes that impacted the whole world.”

Photo: Courtesy of https://www.instagram.com/superstarrrkami/