About a week ago, my family and I got together to play some trivia. During one of my turns to choose a category, I picked a round that focused on the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. because I figured it would be fair and give everyone a fair chance. My 15-year-old cousin immediately put that assumption to rest.
With every question the rest of us immediately knew the answer to he’d groan with frustration until he eventually called it in and started his own guessing game. This isn’t because he’s not a smart kid – on the contrary he’s got a lot of interesting observations and theories for his age. He went to the same elementary school that I did where we learned the seven principals of Kwanzaa every February and once spent an entire 3rd grade morning and afternoon having Dr. King’s biography read to us. So, I had to ask myself where was the disconnect?
While I definitely plan to make him sit down and watch Our Friend, Martin the next time I see him and then slide a copy of Between the World and Me in his book bag, I have to accept that the old school methods of learning about our history may not work for him and others like him.
Doing oral presentations on figures such as Phillis Wheatley and Frederick Douglass are still very valuable experiences for a lot of people. But we’re getting to a point where we may have to shake things up some to make sure that this knowledge is being passed down to a younger generation that’s used to getting information that’s easier to consume than Olaudah Equiano’s autobiography.
Here are some examples of newer, fresher ways to explore black history during Black History Month:
Google Cultural Institute
When it comes to learning, nothing really beats going to a museum and immersing yourself in the history and culture. But that costs money and sometimes you want to just sit on your couch in really comfortable clothes that you know you shouldn’t wear out in public. So the next best thing would be to check out the new Google Cultural Institute.
GCI conceivably works as a virtual museum – that’s free of charge – and offers insight into everything from tales of slavery to the Black Power movement.
To help make celebrating Black History Month more appealing to a younger crowd – not that you should have to, but it doesn’t hurt – here’s a notion. Instead of solely focusing on speaking about people who are either late heroes of the past or old enough to receive AARP benefits, balance it out with some of the faces of new. After all, Harry Belafonte did recently say at MLKNow that he and Dr. King were basically seasoned veterans of the Civil Rights movement when they were only in their early-to-mid 20s.
Chances are a lot of people aren’t too familiar with some of the younger black faces of excellence in today’s day and age, so NBC published a feature called NBCBLK28 to focus on 28 – plus one, for the leap year – black people under the age of 28 who are excelling in their respective arenas. The list includes activists, actors, star athletes and entrepreneurs.
Social Media Connections
Social media is for millennials what the radio was for those that grew up in the 1920s. While their elders likely complained about them not reading newspapers as much and spending too much time sitting in front of some newfangled audio box, they embraces the change and technological advancement. The same can be said for millennials that are “always” on their phones or laptops as they scroll through social media.
While this may be a beginner’s lesson from “Modern PR Practices 101,” having a social media presence in 2016 truly is a necessity. So using it to promote black history – or even current black events that impact people directly – could do wonders. Hashtags like #TwitpicTheBlackestPictureInYourPhone and #BlackComicsMonth are prime examples of how people are coming together to celebrate many different forms of black achievement in today’s world.
Our Friend, Martin isn’t the only thing I plan to make my cousin watch. Luckily for me, and for you, there’s a ton of movies about black history, culture and entertainment that can be found throughout various streaming services like Netflix and Hulu. Dear White People, The Black Power Mixtape, What Happened, Miss Simone? and Night Catches Us are just a few of the many features that can be found. Not to mention that Dope is scheduled to hit Netflix on Feb. 10, according to Wired.
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons