One of the best ways to celebrate Black History Month is by supporting black Americans and the art they create. There is a so much music, film, literature and art to recommend, but as black Americans have spawned some of the most revolutionary aspects of American culture since the country’s birth, it’s nearly impossible to narrow down recommendations of what to listen to, stream, read and view to celebrate Black History Month. Thus, the list below is focused more on the contemporary aspects of black culture and a few ways to support the activists and artists of today, while still paying respect to those of the past.
Watch Mudbound on Netflix
It’s hard for black female directors to gain the same recognition their white counterparts are given. A perfect example of this is Dee Rees’ Mudbound, released on Netflix last January. The film was praised by critics, but received little recognition in the mainstream media, and was snubbed from most of the major categories at every awards show. It tells the chilling story of two World War II veterans, one black and one white, who return to their town in Mississippi and face the harsh realities of racism.
Watch 2 Dope Queens on HBO
Initially a podcast and now a series on HBO, 2 Dope Queens is a late-night stand-up show hosted by Jessica Williams and Phoebe Robinson. Aside from being incredibly funny, this show is one of the few, if any, late-night stand-up shows led by not one, but two black female comedians, which is extremely important in the field of comedy, where black female comedians still don’t receive as much attention or accolades as they deserve. New episodes air Friday nights at 11:30 p.m. on HBO.
Experience Black Panther in Theaters
Black Panther is imbued with black excellence. With an all-star cast and Ryan Coogler as the director, this film is poised to be one of the most stand-out Marvel releases of all time. The film, which is on track to be the biggest first quarter seller in the history of Fandango, is based off of the comic book by the same name. In the film, Black Panther (Prince T’Challa) is in line to become the king of Wakanda and must face the challenges of leading a nation.
Buy black music
February’s playlist should be about crossing genre lines and mixing the old with the new. Jam out to the iconic 1999 by the late Prince, which contains the legendary song “Little Red Corvette.” Meditate to Louis Armstrong’s classical jazz rendition of “La Vie en Rose” one night while staring at the stars. Dive deep into the genre of hip-hop and experience a few of the classics from artists such as Public Enemy, then listen to some contemporary hip-hop albums such as We Got It from Here… Thank You 4 Your Service by A Tribe Called Quest, their final studio album.
Catch a “Window Seat” with poet Erykah Badu and appreciate works celebrating black womanhood, such as Lauryn Hill’s The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, which won Album of the Year at the Grammys and turned her into an international icon. As hip-hop is now the number one listened to genre in America, it’s impossible to turn on the radio and not hear its influence, but there’s plenty to learn from venturing deeper into black culture as well.
Follow black artists on Instagram
Social media has given black artists a new platform to rise and share their creative visions with the world. Some artists to check out include visual performance artist Oroma Elewa (@oroma.elewa), who just released a collective of short stories entitled “Crushed Guava Leaves,” and photographer and filmmaker Tyler Mitchell (@tylersphotos), whose work has appeared everywhere from Dazed Magazine to Vogue. Visual artist Gabrielle Richardson (@fridacashflow), perhaps best known as a curator for the “arthoecollective” — a platform created for young artists of color — is worth a follow. And the last artist that deserves follow consideration is contemporary artist Toyin Ojih Odutola (@toyinojihodutola), whose work can be seen in some of the biggest museums in the country, including the Museum of Contemporary Art here in Los Angeles.
Read The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
This book tells an incredibly relevant story, and one which is about to be adapted into a movie on Fox. It looks at police brutality through the eyes of a young black girl named Starr, who witnesses the death of her friend at the hands of police.
Visit the California African American Museum
There are many museums around Los Angeles dedicated to the black communities who have lived here. Visit the California African American Museum on Exposition Boulevard, where you can find the art, history and culture of black Americans through the western United States. One of its current exhibitions is entitled Adler Guerrier: Conditions and Forms for black Longevity, which is on view until Aug. 26.
And lastly, be aware
Keep up with activists like free agent Colin Kaepernick and the protests against the NFL, and follow activists like Deray McKesson on Twitter to stay informed about the issues black Americans are facing today. Finally, follow black journalists like Angela Jade Bastién, a writer for Vulture, and Zeba Blay, the senior culture critic for Huffington Post. Stay informed, support black artists and activists and then keep doing it, even after February ends.