Celebrations & Resources
Black History Month highlights the lasting contributions which Black people have brought to society and provides the space to understand how black narratives are tightly woven and integrated into the narrative of the United States as a whole. We use this month to recognize the meaningful impact that individuals of African descent have made to enrich American culture, expand democracy, strengthen families, and make a better society for all.
The Boys & Girls Clubs of the Capital Area is proud to celebrate Black History Month by offering unique experiences for our kids as well as local and online resources for the general community.
To commemorate and celebrate the contributions to our nation made by people of African descent, American historian Carter G. Woodson established Black History Week. First celebrated in 1926, the week was expanded into Black History Month in 1976 as part of the nation’s bicentennial. Each year, the U.S. President proclaims February as National African American History Month. Other countries around the world, including Canada and the United Kingdom, also devote a month to celebrating Black history.
“Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.” ~ Harriet Tubman
Support Black-Owned Businesses
Many Black-owned businesses still face structural racism, which poses a unique threat to their longevity and ability to serve their communities’ needs. An estimated 40 percent of Black business owners had already closed their doors between February and April of 2020. This number is twice the decline experienced by white business owners. Becoming a customer — specifically during February when these companies have a lot more visibility — is a great way to celebrate.
Don’t know where to start?
Ujamaa Market opens on select dates at the BGCCA Albany Clubhouse and features local Black-owned businesses.
Online marketplace Miiriya showcases Black-owned businesses in a range of categories, like fashion, art, beauty, and home décor.
iloveblackpeople.com - Black-owned & Black-friendly places that treat people with dignity & respect.
Find other companies by searching the #blackowned hashtag online.
Learn About Noteworthy Black Figures
For example, there’s Shirley Chisolm, the first Black woman elected to Congress.
And Fannie Lou Hamer, a Black activist who launched Freedom Farm Cooperative (FFC), an initiative to purchase land that Black people could collectively own and farm.
Learn about the history of Black people’s contributions to the catalog of inventions that marked the Industrial Revolution.
Visit BlackPast.org for an extensive list of other notable Black figures.
Add Black authors
to your reading list
In the US, works of fiction and nonfiction shine a bright light on the reality of this country’s history, but the stories appear differently based on who tells them. Stories of the Black experience, whether delivered by factual historical accounts or reinterpreted through fictional characters, set a standard for how we receive narratives. Even with the best intentions, white writers attempting to retell Black stories are ill-equipped. Only a Black person can tell you what it’s like to live in their skin. In gaining empathy and understanding to help unify the country and improve the human condition, these first-hand accounts are crucial.
ASALH provides a list of Books on Black Health and Wellness
PBS provides a list of 10 Black Authors Everyone Should Read
Listen to or read “The 1619 Project” by the New York Times.
The ZORA Canon looks at 'The 100 greatest books ever written by African American women'
online Black Health
First, the bad news: Heart disease, cancer, and stroke are the leading causes of death for African Americans.
Nearly half of all African American adults have some form of cardiovascular disease that includes heart disease and stroke.
Cancer is the second leading cause of death among people of color in the United States, particularly prostate and breast cancers.
The good news is we can do something! Living a healthy lifestyle can help prevent heart disease, cancer, and stroke.
Eat a healthy diet: fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat milk & milk products. AVOID foods with: saturated fats, cholesterol, salt (sodium), or added sugars.
Exercise regularly. Adults need 2 hours and 30 minutes (or 150 minutes total) of exercise each week. Spread your activity out during the week and into small chunks each day.
Be smokefree. Smoking should be avoided at all costs due to tremendous negative impacts in the short and long term.
See a Doctor. Regular visits can make a big difference in health maintenance!
Online Mental Health Resources:
Legacy of Trauma: Context of the African
Take action by contacting your representatives and urging them to support the Freedom to Vote Act. This democracy reform package will combat voter suppression, protect and strengthen the sacred right to vote, and put a stop to many of the disenfranchisement tactics, such as closed polling places and overly restrictive rules, being proposed by some state legislators.
Tell Congress to Pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Act Voting should be accessible for every voter — no matter where they live, what they do for a living, their economic status, or the color of their skin. The John Lewis Voting Rights Act would restore the Voting Rights Act (VRA) and strengthen the provisions in it to protect the freedom to vote for all Americans, particularly voters of color.
View a timeline of voting rights
BGCA Amazing Alumni
The Boys & Girls Clubs of the Capital Area is proud to celebrate Black History Month by honoring the BGCA alumni who broke barriers to become the first Black Americans to reach new heights. We join the Black community in creating the next generation of history makers by doing whatever it takes to create opportunities for all young people.
The first African American to win multiple Academy Awards
Before Denzel Washington became known for his blockbuster movies, he was a kid attending the Boys & Girls Club of Mount Vernon. At the Club, Denzel was mentored by Billy Thomas and learned several life-long lessons. Denzel fervently pursued his love for acting, earning some 60 acting credits. Denzel Washington has received several accolades for his work, including Academy Awards for best supporting actor (Glory) and best actor (Training Day), making Denzel the first African American to win two Academy Awards. “Everything you’ve seen or heard about me began with lessons I learned to live by at the Club."
The first African American USTA Chairman, CEO and President
Katrina Adams became the first African American to become an NCAA doubles champion. She went on to play 12 years on the Women’s Tennis Association tour, capturing 20 career doubles titles as a professional. Adams served on the USTA Board of Directors for ten years. She made history as the first African American and the first former pro tennis player to serve as USTA Chairman, CEO, and President.
The first African American to lead an officiating crew in a Super Bowl
NFL referee Mike Carey is respected throughout the league for his professionalism, preparation and sense of fair play – values made real at the William J. Oakes Boys Club, which he joined at the age of 8. Beginning his officiating career with Pop Warner games in 1972, Mike was hired by the NFL in 1990. In 2008, he was selected to officiate Super Bowl XLII, becoming the first African American to referee the Super Bowl. In addition to his NFL career, Mike co-owns Seirus Innovation, a snow sports accessories company he founded with his wife, Wendy.
Ruth E. Carter
The first African American to win an Academy Award for Costume Design
Drawing pictures was one of many activities Ruth E. Carter enjoyed while attending The Springfield Family Center Boys & Girls Club. Ruth’s love of art led her to discover her passion for costume design. She honed her skills and eventually landed an opportunity to work with award-winning director, Spike Lee. Ruth has worked on some 40 films. She has been nominated for two Academy Awards, making her the first African American to be nominated for best costume design. In 2019, Ruth became the first African American to win an Academy Award for costume design for her work on Black Panther.
The first African American and only four-time heavyweight boxing champion
Four-time world heavyweight boxing champion Evander Holyfield first stepped into the ring at the Warren Unit of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Atlanta when he was 8 years old. Three years later, he qualified to compete in his first Junior Olympics. Through an honorary membership, he continued to box at the Club until making the 1984 U.S. Olympic team at age 21. Through wins and losses, Holyfield never forgot the lessons he learned at the Club.
Sharon Sayles Belton
The first African American Mayor of Minneapolis
Mayor of Minneapolis from 1994 to 2001, Sharon Sayles Belton, the city’s first African American and first female to hold the post, brought citizens and government together to clean up neighborhoods, fight crime, and develop local business and industry. As a community leader and activist, she has advocated for children’s and women’s issues, leading efforts to improve services for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. As a senior fellow at the Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, Sayles Belton works on anti-racism initiatives and improving information sharing between community organizations and research institutions.
The first African American NBA Head Coach
NBA legend Bill Russell wasn’t always the basketball star we know him to be today. In fact, he was cut from his high school team. However, his coach saw something in him and sent him to the Oakland Boys & Girls Club to hone his basketball skills. In 13 seasons, the dominating center led the Boston Celtics to 11 championships, including two as player-coach, the first African American coach in NBA History. In 1975, Bill Russell was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. In 2010, Bill Russell was the recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, for his Civil Rights work.
American Ballet Theatre’s first African American principal dancer
Misty Copeland was 13-years-old when she took her first ballet class at San Pedro Boys & Girls Club. Her newfound passion led her to take to ballet quickly and in just four short years, she joined the American Ballet Theatre. Through hard work and dedication, Copeland was promoted as the American Ballet Theatre’s first African American principal dancer.
“Your story is what you have, what you will always have. It is something to own.”
~ Michelle Obama
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