Black History month is a great time to recognize the disadvantaged that most, if not all, minority as well as women owned businesses face. This period is a great time to support a small owned business, and shop at a Black owned company. Or you can give back in other ways, by donating to a charity, volunteering time to mentor a minority small business owner, push for equal rights, or any other countless activity.
In the early 20th century, African-Americans began recognizing a week in February as a time to celebrate the contributions of Black Americans to history. Eventually, in 1970, the celebration expanded to a month-long event that has been recognized by every American president since Gerald Ford. The recognition has also spread to many countries across the world, and the month was renamed Black History month.
In light of the events of 2020, there has been a renewed interest in the achievements and struggles of Black-Americans. There has also been interest in shopping at their companies, and find an directory of online Black owned businesses. There has been more light shed on the disparities when it comes to small business ownership, the lack of women and minorities in leadership roles, lack of capital and bias in the banking sector and other discrimination. With the following activities, Americans of every background can honor Black History Month, and a major way to fight generational wealth and systemic racism is to shop at a black owned business.
Ways to Celebrate Black History Month and Businesses
As noted, there are many things to do. Shopping at, supporting some, during the month of February is but one thing. Then again, make a commitment to shop at a minority owned company year round – not just in February. Other ways to celebrate the month and recognize it include the following.
Make a Visit to a Black History Museum – Throughout the country, there are museums that cover the experience of Black Americans from the arrival of the first Africans in America to the present. For example, the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture has created a rich, online experience for virtual visitors. There is also the Black American Cowboy museum that celebrates the history of Black cowboys (and cow-girls!). They can explore permanent and a selection of past exhibitions on subjects like the role of Black-Americans in the military, slavery to freedom, the City of Hope, and the life of author James Baldwin.
Mentor a minority entrepreneur – Black Men and Women face a number of barriers when trying to start a business. They have less access to capital, face challenges when it comes to paying up front costs for the business, systemic racism, and countless others. Helping coach or mentor a minority, for free, is a great way to give back during Black History month. Find how you can mentor a black owned business.
Shop at a Black Owned business during Black History month – All across this website we have hundreds of small to mid-sized minority owned businesses listed. They can be a sole-proprietor or they can employ tens or hundreds of people. Black History month is a great time to go find a business to shop at. Diversify your spending to minority owned, disadvantaged businesses. Try a Black owned beauty brand, as most companies often sell online. Watch a fitness class online, or encourage friends to shop at a Black owned business. Have no money to spend, then just go “like” or “follow” an influencer. February (Black History Month) is a great time to go find some new companies to shop at, and once you find one or more businesses, continue to support them all year.
Watch Documentaries – Documentaries that capture a particular aspect of the African-American experience are available on popular streaming services. Here are brief descriptions of a few documentaries to help you find one you’re interested in watching.
• Althea recounts the unlikely rise of Harlem native Althea Gibson to tennis stardom. Gibson became the first African-American to win Wimbledon in the 1950s.
• Black Patriots: Heroes of the Revolution brings attention to black heroes who fought the British during the American Revolution.
• Eyes on the Prize provides an in-depth look at the modern civil rights movement.
• King in the Wilderness documents the final months in the life of civil rights icon Dr. Martin Luther King.
• The Loving Story is Richard and Mildred Loving’s fight against the state law that made their interracial marriage illegal.
Discover Works by Black Authors at a Black owned Bookstore – During the colonial era, Phyllis Wheatley became the first person of African descent to publish poetry in America. Wheatley was the pioneer in what has become a long line of African-American poets like Langston Hughes, Paul Lawrence Dunbar, and Lucille Clifton.
Black writers have made their mark in every genre. There are also a number of black-owned book stores that sell online as well as that operate physical stores. Octavia Butler writes science fiction and is best known for her novel Kindred. Playwright Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun is an award-winning drama that had a run on Broadway. Michael Twitty explores the African-American experience through food in The Cook Gene: A Journey through African American Culinary History in the Old South. Or find a listing of black owned book stores.
Embrace the Richness of African-American Music – Anyone may find something new they enjoy when they listen to different genres of African-American music. Blues, jazz, ragtime, spirituals, and hip hop are examples of musical genres that have their roots in the Black community. The best-known blues artists include Bessie Smith, W.C. Handy, and Ethel Waters. Before jazz emerged, Scott Joplin created syncopated pieces like The Entertainer and Maple Leaf Rag in a genre known as ragtime. Ragtime’s syncopation was a major influence on the development of jazz.
It would take much longer than a month to explore the richness of the African-American story. You even may enjoy revisiting some of these activities after February has ended, and continue to shop at their businesses year round. Celebrate and support the contributions of minorities to American history year round – not just during Black History month.
By Jon McNamara