Prospero Teammate, Marissa Williams

Celebrating Black History with Prospero Teammate, Marissa Williams

When asked to identify an individual in the Black community that impacted or inspired my life or the work I do, I am sure you were looking for me to highlight a Black civil rights leader, the “first” of something Black politician, or a prominent Black business leader. 

While Black leaders should be celebrated during Black History Month because of the impact they have on the United States, it is difficult to choose one person because the Black community is just that – a community. We collectively support each other, celebrate our wins, and overcome our losses. 

I believe that Black History Month is about more than just recognizing accomplished Black people, it is about understanding the Black experience, learning new Black stories, and recognizing how those past and present experiences and stories impact society today.

As Carter G. Woodson, the man who established Black History Month (formerly known as Negro History Week) would agree, history is made by the people, not only by great individuals.

Understanding the Black Experience

Prospero Teammate, Marissa Williams

If someone wants to start learning about the Black experience, I think first and foremost, I would say that it’s important to understand that it is not the job of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) individuals to educate allies about their experiences or culture. 

Here are a few reasons why, from my perspective:

1. When discussing matters of race, there is an obligation to make the other person feel comfortable, often having to focus on the non-BIPOC individual’s opinions and queries.

2. It is tiring to provide learning experiences to others, especially if BIPOCs’ opinions and experiences are subdued through tone policing.

3. Information is available to everyone on the internet; if a non-BIPOC person wants to learn something, resources are available.

If people are looking for resources or want to know where to start, it really depends on how they like to consume information – everyone is different, and there is no right or wrong way to learn. On occasion, I will send a recommendation to someone, they will watch/listen/read it, then we will have a conversation about it. Consuming the same media as a person that is trying to learn about Black experiences and Black culture is a great way for people to absorb information without the BIPOC individual feeling the pressure of having to “do the work” by sharing their own experiences.

Of course, this is just my opinion and does not necessarily represent the thoughts of other BIPOC individuals.

Books, Movies, and Podcasts As a Place to Start

Here is some content I have read, watched, or listened to that I would recommend, but there are hundreds (if not thousands) of others available:

  • Books:
    • Lies My Teacher Told Me by James W. Loewen
    • Stamped from the Beginning: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Ibram X. Kendi
      • Stamped by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi is an adapted version of Stamped From the Beginning (this is the version I read after I tried reading the original with little success)
  • Movies / Documentaries / Series:
    • Owned: A Tale of Two Americas (documentary)
    • If Beale Street Could Talk (movie)
    • Hidden Figures (movie)
    • When They See Us (limited series)
    • Dear White People (series)
  • Podcasts:
    • Code Switch, NPR
    • Black History Buff Podcast
    • Misspacklight in Color
Prospero Teammate, Marissa Williams in forested area

“Race and racism is a reality that so many of us grow up learning to just deal with. But if we ever hope to move past it, it can’t just be on people of color to deal with it. It’s up to all of us — Black, white, everyone — no matter how well-meaning we think we might be, to do the honest, uncomfortable work of rooting it out.”

Michelle Obama