For the Culture: Black History Month 2019!

Baby ShanMichele wearing a Kente Cloth hat

Can we all agree that we need a redo of Black History Month 2019? It seems like we couldn't get it right for the first couple weeks of the month. We had to deal with the Jussie Smollett fiasco, 21 Savage getting detained by ICE, R. Kelly finally getting charged, Gucci making sweaters that resemble black face, and more. On the bright side - Cardi B made history and won a Grammy for Best Rap Album. Spike Lee also came through for us and won his first Oscar, which was well overdue. I guess Black History Month 2019 wasn't that bad, but it definitely wasn't as grand as last year when we had the release of Marvel's Black Panther and everyone was basking in the #WakandaForever glory.

Despite all of the shenanigans that happened this month, I still found time to celebrate Black History, culture, and greatness (even though I celebrate every day of the year). I grew up being involved in Black History programs every year, reciting Martin Luther King, Jr's “I Have A Dream” speech from memory, attending Afrocentric summer camps, being able to rattle off Civil Rights facts, and everything else. I didn't appreciate it then, but I now thank my parents for immersing me in the culture and constantly making me aware and proud of my history. Black History Month is just a 28-day emphasis on how far we've come, how far we still need to go, but how great we still are.

Here's how I celebrated Black History Month this year:

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater's

ShanMichele at the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater's performance at the Fox Theatre (Atlanta, GA)

As part of an annual tradition, I attended the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater's 60th Anniversary performance at the Fox Theatre. Since I'm a former dancer, I really admire the technique and strength of the dancers, as well as the artistic creativity of the entire performance.

This year the dance company presented “Lazarus,” in honor of their 60th anniversary season. This powerful piece highlighted past and present racial inequities experienced by Black people in America. I thoroughly enjoyed this portion of the performance including the musical selections and costumes. The rich legacy of Alvin Ailey, the company's founder, was strongly felt throughout this performance. His voice could be heard in recorded interviews that were played during the performance, as well as a voice crying out for Mr. Ailey at the end of the piece while his shadow was projected on the stage's back screen.

Of course, the performance closed with the dance company's signature performance of Revelations, which is my favorite! This piece was created in 1960 and reflects on the cultural heritage of African-Americans as they journeyed from slavery to freedom. While the dancers dance to the sounds of African-American spirituals, gospel, and blues, the audience is taken on a journey through the sorrows, griefs, and joys of African=American history. My favorite section of this piece is "Take Me To The Water," which is an enactment of a ceremonial baptism. The dance moves, music, colors, and overall meaning of this piece never gets old. I really look forward to Revelations at every Alvin Ailey performance.

I love how the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater brings history and issues facing the community to light through the power of dance. If you haven't had the chance to see a performance by the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, then you should definitely view their tour schedule and try to catch them in a city near you.

The Lip Bar

ShanMichele with The Lip Bar's "Unimpressed" Liquid Matte

Can you really celebrate Black History Month without supporting Black businesses? Although I believe in supporting our businesses all year, there's nothing wrong with really showing them extra love during Black History Month. The Lip Bar is one of my favorite black-owned businesses that specializes in vegan, cruelty-free lip products including lipsticks and lip glosses. As a woman, you know I have to make sure my lip gloss is poppin' at all times - word to Lil' Mama.

The Lip Bar blessed customers this month when the brand celebrated it's seventh birthday. On February 21st, customers were able to celebrate and purchase the brand's amazing lip products for only $7 each, discounted from their regular price of $13. Of course I had to stock up on some of my favorites including Goddess, Goals, Man Eater, and Unimpressed. Thanks to the sale, I was able to re-up for the spring, save money, and shop black.

The Lip Bar's products are amazing, and the fact that they are from a black-owned business is even better. They have a variety of shades, so there's something for everyone. If you love making sure your lips look and feel great, then definitely check out them out. You can also purchase their products in store at the happiest place on Earth - Target.

National Center for Civil and Human Rights

ShanMichele at the National Center for Civil and Human Rights (Atlanta, GA)

The National Center for Civil and Human Rights was free for the entire month of February thanks to a grant from the Coca-Cola Foundation, so I definitely had to stop in for a visit. It was my first time visiting the museum which opened in 2014. The museum aims to connect the Civil Rights Movement to the Global Human Rights Movement happening today.

For the sake of time (and my focus on Black History Month), I spent the majority of my visit exploring the Civil Rights portion of the museum. I love how this museum focused on the Civil Rights Movement, which is my favorite period of Black History. So much happened during this time period, and when you put things into perspective - it really wasn’t that long ago. My parents were alive during the Civil Rights Movement and remember when some of these events actually took place, which is a reminder that we aren't that far removed from this time period.

The museum's American Civil Rights Movement exhibit allows visitors to walk through many monumental events that happened during this time. The gallery provided details on people and events including Ruby Bridges, the Little Rock Nine and the integration of Central High School, 16th Street Baptist Church bombing, Greensboro sit-ins, Freedom Riders, Rosa Parks, and more. The National Center for Civil and Human Rights also had a special exhibit honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. that featured his handwritten speeches along with other personal papers and items. There was even a portion of the Civil Rights Movement gallery that highlighted African-American Institutions in Atlanta and other local happenings since Atlanta was a major hub during the Civil Rights Movement; I appreciated how they added this special local touch.

I'm thankful that the museum was free when I visited, but it still reasonable during the regular season. Check out the website for full pricing details, and be sure to plan a visit to the National Center for Civil and Human Rights if you're in the Atlanta area.

How did you celebrate Black History Month?

Overall, I had a good Black History Month even though I somewhat want a re-do due to all of the shenanigans I mentioned earlier. Either way, I still made time to celebrate and spent time doing cultural things that I love. I'm comforted in the fact that Black History is not limited to a specific time period, and all of it definitely can't be learned or celebrated in the shortest month of the year. We are Black History 365 days of the year, so let's continue to celebrate, make progress, and be proud of who we are!

<3 ShanMichele

Here are some pics from my visit to the National Center for Civil and Human Rights


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