Opinion: Meaningful ways to observe Black History Month

Did you know that one of the most important cell lines used in medical research — HeLa cells — came from an African American woman named Henrietta Lacks? Or that Simone Biles is the first American to win a medal at every event at the gymnastics World Championships? If not, now is the perfect time to brush up on a little bit of black history. Each year in the month of February, we pay homage to the several contributions black people have made in America.

This tradition dates back to 1926 when Carter G. Woodson, an African American Harvard graduate and his­torian, dedicated the second week of February as “Negro History Week.” Woodson was frustrated with under­representation of black people in his­torical texts and hoped the celebration would bring attention to the accom­plishments and history of black people that often go unrecognized. In 1976, “Negro History Week” was expanded into what we now call Black History Month. Though black culture can be appreciated all year round, here are a few ways you can celebrate Black His­tory Month.

Brush up on Black Literature

From James Baldwin to Angie Thomas, black writers often use lit­erature to illuminate the complexity, struggle and beauty of black life. This month, don’t pass up on the opportu­nity to read work that’ll broaden your point of view. Rejoice in classic works from Zora Neale Hurston, Wallace Thurman and Toni Morrison, or relish in the poetry from writers like Maya Angelou, Gwendolyn Brooks or Langston Hughes. For more modern works, check out the Nigerian novel­ist Chimamanda Adichie. Find these works at your local library or purchase online from Amazon.

Visit the Museum

Several museums across the nation have art on display to commemorate Black History Month. Visit the Ta­coma Art Museum or the Northwest African American Museum in Seattle to view artwork from various black artists. The Tacoma Arts Museum currently has a display called “Fabrics of Faith,” which showcases a variety of quilts inspired by African American children stories of the past and present. This display will be avail­able until March 29, which hopefully gives students an opportunity to learn about African American culture and history.

Support a black-owned business

A lot of people don’t realize how many black businesses flourish in Washington. There are many types owned by black people, such as day­cares, notaries, plumbers, contractors, funeral homes, real-estate agencies, chiropractors, restaurants and beauty salons, artists and boutiques. To find and support a black business near you, check out pages like the Seattle Black Business Directory on Facebook or download the Black Wall Street app.

Listen to a lecture or attend an event

There is a flurry of Black History events to attend and prominent speak­ers to learn from this month. For ex­ample, on Feb. 19 from 11:30 a.m.–2:30 p.m. the Black Student Union will be sponsoring a Soul Food Lunch. Tickets are $5 and can be purchased at the door. If you miss some of the exciting events around campus, ven­ture to the Black History Celebration held by the Peoples Community Cen­ter in Tacoma on Feb. 22 from 5:30 p.m.–8:30 p.m. The event will have spo­ken word, guest speak­ers, live painting and much more. If you are not able to attend any of these events — don’t give up. Consider checking out a Ted talk hosted by a phenomenal black person such as T’wina Franklin’s “De­bunking Superwoman: Be Super You” or Chimamanda Adichie’s “The Dan­ger of a Single Story” to inspire you during Black History Month.