February is Black History Month in America. And although celebrating Black history, culture and people shouldn't be confined to just one month, it does ensure an opportunity to commemorate the heroic figures of Black men and women, and also increase visibility of Black life and history; two of Carter G. Woodson's goals when he created the concept in 1926.
As time has gone on, it has evolved from the initial one week celebration in accordance with the birthdays of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln, to a month-long celebration. And it continues to go further.
"It's about the lived, shared experience of all African Americans, high and low, famous and obscure, and how those experiences have shaped and challenged and ultimately strengthened America," said President Obama in during the 2016 Black History Month reception. "It's about taking an unvarnished look at the past so we can create a better future. It's a reminder of where we as a country have been so that we know where we need to go."
We spoke with 12 families on how they choose to celebrate Black History Month in their household. Here are there responses:
Dads Clayton and Andy with daughter Lyla, New Orleans, Louisiana
"The older I get ... the more I am filled with pride about being Black and celebrating the work that my ancestors have done to allow me the life I have now."
Clayton on one of his Black role models: "My mother will always be my Black role model. When I think of the generations of Black women who endured pain, heartache and made countless sacrifices, I put my mother in that number. She raised six kids, all while working and making sure that we all were educated and had the essentials. She created a happy home for us with so little and I keep this in mind anytime I think about parenting. I celebrate her all year long!"
Clayton on his favorite thing about Black History Month: "The older I get, the more in tune and understanding I have with my Blackness, and the more I am filled with pride about being Black and celebrating the work that my ancestors have done to allow me the life I have now. I am excited to teach my daughter that with having a Black daddy and a White daddy, she gets to experience two different cultures while growing up and celebrating her own Blackness. I want her to embrace her version of being a Black girl in America while always knowing the story of Blacks in this country."
Dads Jeff and Brian with their son Carter, Hamden, Connecticut
"No matter the color of your skin, a culture can be appreciated by anyone."
Jeff sharing a significant moment encountering Black history: "One of our first trip with Carter was an impromptu trip to the Philadelphia Zoo. After that we went for a late lunch and then a walk downtown and stumbled on to The President's House, and we learned about some of the slaves owned by George Washington. One in particular that stuck with me was a man named Hercules. It was a powerful moment in time for us that we still talk about."
Jeff on what Black History Month: "Definitely no matter the color of your skin, a culture can be appreciated by anyone."
Dads Chris and Nick with Ari and Baby K, Chicago, Illinois
"We want to raise our kids with a strong racial and positive cultural identity and for us that goes beyond buying books/toys where our kids can see themselves represented in diverse and positive ways"
How Nick and Chris celebrate Black History Month: "As White adoptive parents, we feel the spirit of Black History Month is something we need to strive for all year round, but during February we want to create extra space to celebrate Black art, history, and support Black owned businesses. This year we have planned to go to a special kid's story time reading of "My Hair is a Garden" by the author Cozbi A. Cabrera at a local bookstore. We want to raise our kids with a strong racial and positive cultural identity and for us that goes beyond buying books/toys where our kids can see themselves represented in diverse and positive ways, but making it a priority to ensure Black culture is reflected in the neighborhood we live in, schools they attend, and community we build for our family."
One their family's favorite quotes by a Black icon: "Never be limited by other people's limited imaginations." —Dr. Mae Jemison
Dads Antwon and Nate with Daughter K, Portland, Oregon
"I hope she and I are a family long enough to travel to the Natural Portrait Gallery and look at the paintings of Michelle and Barack Obama. I'd give anything to watch her smile as she realizes that she truly can accomplish anything."
Antwon on his family plans to celebrate Black History Month: "This month, my foster daughter and I will be learning about how powerful our skin is, and how powerful it has been throughout history. I replay in my mind the poem "Still I Rise" by Maya Angelou, where she says 'I am the dream and the hope of the slave.' That phrase is so powerful! I don't know how many Black History Month's K and I will have together, so I have to use this time to remind her that she's beautiful, that she's brilliant, and she has history to make. She naturally gravitates to historical figures that look like her, so we'll read stories and look at pictures of brave, talented, brilliant black women. I hope she and I are a family long enough to travel to the Natural Portrait Gallery and look at the paintings of Michelle and Barack Obama. I'd give anything to watch her smile as she realizes that she truly can accomplish anything."
Dads Trey and Phil with Michael*, Seattle, Washington
"We love Michelle and Barack in our house! We talk about them all the time, and they are an inspiration in terms of showing the world that Black families who are committed, stable, and loving exist and are thriving with amazing children."
Trey on his favorite Black History museum: "I recently was able to visit the National Museum of African American History and Culture in D.C. for the first time, and I can't wait to take Michael* there when he's older. They did such a great job painting an honest picture of our history; both the good and the bad. I also love that they included representation of Black gay men! I bought Michael* a Tuskegee Air Man doll and an MLK Jr. book that we'll read to him."
Trey on Black role models their family celebrates: "We love Michelle and Barack in our house! We talk about them all the time, and they are an inspiration in terms of showing the world that Black families who are committed, stable, and loving exist and are thriving with amazing children. I also love the greater exposure of Black gay dads in the media and seeing other families of color shining and unapologetically being themselves in their parenting life."
Dads DaRel and Charles with Braeden, Mitchellville, Maryland
"We plan to make sure that Braeden is continually exposed to lessons about his history and culture all year long."
DaRel and Charles' favorite children's book celebrating Black culture: "'Please, Baby, Please' by Spike Lee and Tonya Lewis Lee. Braeden has always loved this book, and often requests that we read it several times in a row. We love the fact that both the authors and illustrator are Black, and that the characters allow our child to see himself represented on the page."
One of DaRel and Charles' favorite quotes from a Black icon: "You never know how or when you'll have an impact or how important your example can be to someone else." - Denzel Washington
Dads Terrell and Jarius with Ashton and Aria
"While we feel that Black History and culture should be celebrated and embraced year round, we love the knowledge and wisdom shared during this amazing time."
How Terrell and Jarius celebrate Black History Month: "Our family celebrates Black History Month by researching and learning of a different pioneer in African American culture at the end of each week. We hope to continue this tradition as our kids get older so that they are knowledgeable on Black History as well and understand the impact they can have on the world one day."
What is their family's favorite thing about Black History Month: "To see so many people embrace the culture is just amazing."
Dads Tarik and Jeff with Avery, New Rochelle, New York
"We want her to understand the history of African Americans in this country. And we want her to understand what being African American in this country means today."
Tarik on how their family celebrates Black History Month: "Avery is a little too young to understand what Black History Month is, but as she continues to grow and learn, we want her to understand the contributions African Americans have made to society. We want her to understand the history of African Americans in this country. And we want her to understand what being African American in this country means today."
Tarik on what Black History Month means to his family: "Avery is being raised in an interracial household, in a diverse area, around many different types of friends. Because of that, we're excited that she is going to learn about a range of cultures and types of people. As an African American girl with darker skin, she has to be raised to understand that she's important, that she matters, and that she can be whatever she wants to be. We are sure to take the time during Black History Month, and all year long, to reinforce that and show her as many great examples as we can."
Dads Jason and Patrick with Marian and Betty, Charlottesville, Virginia
"For us, the Obama family is the ultimate example for all Americans about humility, responsibility and family values. The grace that they display and the honesty about their challenges as a family and a married couple are deeply inspiring."
Why Jason believes celebrating Black History Month is important? "It gives a formal structure for us to learn more about Black Americans who are and were instrumental to the making of this country. It's incredible how little attention is paid to the individuals of African descent throughout the year. This month, however short, is an opportunity to expand the conversation."
One of the ways that Jason and Patrick celebrate Black History Month: "My husband & I own two bakeries in Charlottesville and he is always creating stencils to put on the breads and cakes. This February, to celebrate Black History Month, our bread will feature a stencil of a different person from past or present who has shaped our country. Some will be well known, others a little more obscure to most Americans. Throughout this month we hope to showcase the indelible influence Black Americans have had at shaping the United States."
Kenneth and J.Maurice with Eli and Juan, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
"We celebrate Black History Month by incorporating books about the lives of black historical figures into our daily reading."
One of the dads' favorite quotes by a Black icon: "Learn to deal with the valleys and the hills will take care of themselves." - Count Basie
J.Maurice and Kenneth on one of their Black role models: "Bill Cosby; despite his recent transgressions, in our household, Dr. Cosby single-handedly displayed to the world the complexities of African American culture and livelihood. As a child, "The Cosby Show" was the only true representation of my parental family unit on television. My husband and I have incorporated some of the traditions from the show within the makeup of our household (wearing college sweaters, exposure to Black art and frequent visits to our alma mater - Howard University)."
Dads Joe and Francois with Daphné and Axel, living in Larmor Plage, France
"One place I'd love to visit with the kids, is the the national museum of African American history and culture. Since we moved overseas when the kids were 2 1/2 months, the African American side of their culture hasn't been as pronounced, so I am dying to get back and experience it for them and for myself, as well."
Joe on a Black icon who has impacted his life: "One person who I look to, as a father and as a human being, is Oprah. She is someone who walks the walk and talks the talk, and she firmly believes that you need to take care of yourself emotionally, physically and spiritually, to be able to take care of others. I wholeheartedly agree with that, and because of her, I've actually become more nurturing to my spiritual needs, and I've seen such change in how I'm present for my kids and husband."
One of the dads' favorite quotes by a Black icon: "'I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.' - Maya Angelou. I try to remember this, especially when I'm stressed or frustrated, whether it be business, or bath time. I don't always succeed, but I think it's important to remember that sometimes it's better to be kind than to be right."
Dads Weston and Brandon with Xander and Zoe, Salt Lake City, Utah
"Black role models in our family are any Black person who is willing to share their experience with our family. Finding cultural mirrors for our children is not easy in Utah but the community here is robust and welcoming. To be honest, my biggest hero right now is the woman who does my daughters hair and makes her look like the natural princess she is."
Why this family believes Black History Month is important: "It reminds us to honor the cultural and historical path of our children's ancestry. But more importantly, Black History Month is important to us because it offers a chance for the rest of the country - particularly those privileged enough to not have just one month dedicated to their culture - to take a moment and reflect on the contributions that Black Americans have made to all our lives - and to all our collective culture - and to our nation's history. Black History Month is really for White people to work on humanizing the Black experience. Humanizing will absolutely result in happier humans, stronger communities, and saved lives. We celebrate Black History Month by doing what we can to spread the celebration beyond our family, after all, as parents of Black children we should be honoring our children's culture every single day. This year we encouraged our predominately White elementary school's student council to decorate the entry way with Black history, quotes, and inspiration. They are encouraging teachers to do something in their class to honor the month as well."