By Erica Wright
The Birmingham Times
Honoring Black History Month may look and feel different this year due to the global COVID-19 pandemic but there are still plenty of ways to safely celebrate the contributions of Black people.
Here’s are some Birmingham-area BHM events.
Birmingham Civil Rights Institute
Each year the BCRI educates and celebrates the history of the Civil Rights Movement. This year, the Black History Month 2021 theme is “Black Family: Representation, Identity and Diversity”, exploring the African diaspora and the spread of Black families across the United States.
The BCRI has a schedule of events planned this month and is hosting free education programs to K-12 students including:
- Dangerously Hungry: How Food Deserts Disparage Black Families, a virtual dialog surrounding how food deserts effect Black communities, February 11 at noon.
- Film Discussion: Ethnic notions, a virtual discussion about Marlon Riggs’ award winning documentary and how we can evolve out of stereotypes and reverse anti-blackness, February 12 at 6 p.m.
- Virtual Tour, the Legacy Youth Leadership Program will present a safe museum experience that visitors can see from their homes, February 17 at noon.
- Redlining: No Gate Needed, an interactive town hall about the nation’s history of housing discrimination, February 18 at 6 p.m.
- Historically Speaking: Who Am I, genealogy basics and best practices with John Lanier and the Birmingham African American Genealogy Group, February 22 at 11 a.m.
- Redefining the Image: Fictional Black Families, a presentation and conversation surrounding the representation of Black families in film and television, February 25 at noon.
Visit www.bcri.org/black-history-month for more information.
Birmingham Kwanzaa Committee
The Birmingham Kwanzaa Committee will host book readings and discussions the last seven days of the month, February 22-28, featuring works from a Black author each day that week.
It will be a virtual discussion streamed on their Facebook page.
“We’re still working to pick the authors, but it will be more works of nonfiction and focused on Black History, maybe authors like Ivan Van Sertima or Yosef Ben-Jochannan,” said Clarence Muhammad, co-chair of the committee.
Normally the committee will host a program or an event celebrating Black History Month, but due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, they will celebrate virtually.
Muhammad said it is important to still celebrate Black History Month despite the pandemic.
“The Honorable Marcus Garvey said, ‘A people without the knowledge of self is like a tree without roots’ it is important for us to go back to the roots of our history and remember our ancestors and those who have paved the way that have brought us this far,” he said.
Birmingham Parks and Recreation
At the Fountain Heights Community Center, Birmingham Parks and Recreation Board will host a Poetry Slam on February 24 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
“We’ll have poetry, spoken word and open mic and we’re inviting out vocalists and instrumentalists so we will have a few of them and acoustic guitar players and things of that nature there, it’s going to have a unique sound to it,” said Joel Simmons, director of the Fountain Heights Community Center. “We will also have a cleanup day on February 13. Normally we do some type of sporting activity or have different icons posted in our hallway for the month.”
There will also be food trucks available on that day starting at 4:30 and those will include Big Daddy’s BBQ, Southern Fried Eats and Kinfolks Grill on the 24th.
The center is able to hold about 75 people now to comply with safe, social distancing guidelines, Simmons said.
“During the pandemic, people are more attentive now than in a normal setting, so one of the positive sides of the pandemic is that people are paying attention more and now we can take advantage of somewhat idle time to get information out about our history and culture,” said Simmons. “There is a huge gap where generations don’t know a lot about our culture and history, it’s gotten lost in the fold over the years so we want to take advantage of that and speak out in a poetry and spoken word atmosphere to speak about current events and past.”
Guiding Light Church
Guiding Light Church will show a video presentation of those who have made significant contributions to Black History on the fourth Sunday during service.
“It will describe some of the outstanding African Americans that have added to the history of this country,” said Bishop Jim Lowe, pastor at Guiding Light. “We’re putting that together now to display that on our YouTube and other social media channels. Normally we have something going on every week at church in reference to historical figures… COVID has really changed things around so we’re not able to do some of the things we did before so limited personnel means we have to limit it to one particular event now.”
The video will feature historical figures like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, Harriet Tubman and more.
“We have to remind people of what their heritage is. If people don’t know their history, they don’t know their potential for the future,” said Lowe. “We want for people to know their history so they can know what they can do in the future because there have been too many excuses made about what we can’t do today but our people did years ago in spite of even more hinderances. There is no excuse today for not advancing forward.”
Guiding Light’s Sunday services begin at 9:30 a.m. each week.