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Black History Month: Celebrating Black Resistance and Spotlighting Continuing Injustice

Updated: Aug 7, 2023

Black History Month is an annual celebration of achievements by African Americans and a time for recognizing their central role in U.S. history. Also known as African American History Month, the event grew out of “Negro History Week,” the brainchild of noted historian Carter G. Woodson and other prominent African Americans. Since 1976, every U.S. president has officially designated the month of February as Black History Month. Other countries around the world, including Canada and the United Kingdom, also devote a month to celebrating Black history. In this article, we cover this year’s theme, highlight important Black achievements and provide information on local Denver events happening throughout the month.


2023 Theme: Black Resistance

Black Resistance is the theme for Black History Month 2023. It’s a call to everyone to study the history of Black Americans’ responses to establish safe spaces, where Black life can be sustained, fortified and respected. The theme explores how African Americans have resisted historical and ongoing oppression, including the racial terrorism of lynching, racial pogroms and police killings since their arrival in the U.S. These efforts have been to advocate for a dignified self-determined life in a just democratic society and beyond the U.S. political jurisdiction.


Black people have had to consistently push the U.S. to live up to its ideals of freedom, liberty and justice for all. Black resistance has manifested through protests, writers Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston, and freedom fighters Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Septima Clark and Fannie Lou Hamer. Black people have sought ways to nurture and protect Black lives and have fought for the autonomy of their physical and intellectual bodies through armed resistance, voluntary emigration, nonviolence, education, literature, sports, media and legislation/politics. Black-led institutions and affiliations have lobbied, litigated, legislated, protested and achieved success.


The Association for the Study of African American Life and History offers an in-depth accounting of how African Americans have resisted the injustices they have faced. From armed resistance and the founding of Black media outlets to music, art and sports, their accomplishments highlight what they’ve been able to do in spite of extreme discrimination and inequity. And this begs the question, “What even more incredible things could African Americans could do if equality truly existed in the U.S.?” And this is why we continue to fight.


Politics

Historically and today in the 21st Century, Black people have worked the political angle to seek their rightful space in the country. Where race is concerned, legislative or judicial action to deal with controversial issues has often come late. All three of the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act and the Fair Housing Act were concessions to the Civil Rights and Black Power movements.


Armed Resistance

In an effort to live, maintain and protect economic success, Black people have organized revolts against those who enslaved them, such as in Haiti, and armed themselves against murderous white mobs as seen in Memphis, Tenn. (1892), Rosewood, Fla. (1923), and New Orleans (1900).


Media Outlets

To promote awareness of the myriad of issues and activities, media outlets were developed including radio shows, podcasts, and newspapers (i.e., Chicago Defender, Chicago Bee, the Afro, The California Eagle, Omaha Star, the Crisis, etc.) Ida B. Wells used publications to contest the scourge of lynching.


Music

African American spirituals, gospel, folk music, hip-hop and rap have been used to express struggle, hope and solidarity in the face of racial oppression. Music has illustrated societal issues including white and state-sanctioned violence (i.e., Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit”), and sexual politics (i.e., Salt-N-Pepa’s “Let’s Talk About Sex”), as motivation for strength against harassment, and to experience freedom.


Black Creatives

The Black artists, writers, photographers and musicians who participated in the Black Arts Movement, the Harlem Renaissance and the Chicago Black Renaissance were the soundtrack and the visual representation of resistance movements. These individuals created art that supported the resistance movements, but also provided a space for Black people to express love and joy. Creatives used poetry, fiction, short stories, plays, films and television to counter stereotypes and to imagine a present and future with Black people in it.


Black Athletes

Black athletes have used sports as a way to advocate for social issues and for political agendas. Serena Williams, Flo Jo, Jesse Owens, Tommie Smith, John Carlos, Jackie Robinson, Colin Kaepernick, Simone Biles and many others have used their public forum to bring awareness to issues that affect society, as they resisted the idea that they cannot or should not speak about political, cultural or social issues.


Events

New Normal

WHEN: Feb. 3 and 4, 2023 WHERE: 1373 Grant Street (Feb. 3) and 5000 E Alameda Ave. (Feb. 4) As society strives to achieve social justice and create a new normal, this program raises our voices in solidarity with POC by sharing their music with the world. See two concerts presenting the music of Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color.


The Dirty South: Contemporary Art, Material Culture, and the Sonic Impulse

WHEN: Through Feb. 5, 2023 WHERE: MCA DENVER — Museum of Contemporary Art Denver This exhibition explores the aesthetic legacies and traditions of Black Culture in the African American South as seen through the lens of contemporary Black musical expression. This groundbreaking exhibition, lauded by critics from the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times, argues for the importance of the American South and Black culture as critical to our understanding of America’s past, present, and future.

1st Taste of the Black Culture and Black History of Colorado and the United States, Hosted by DPOD’s District 8

WHEN: Friday, Feb. 24 from 6 to 9 p.m. WHERE: Park Hill Golf Course, 4141 E 35th Ave at Ash Street, Denver, CO 80207 At this fundraising event, you’ll experience the Black American West, Buffalo Soldiers, wisdom of the spirituals, Tuskegee Airmen, history of Blacks in the Colorado Legislature, music, cultural foods and learn the electric slide. Ticket Costs: $30 for 1 person $50 for 2 people $75 for 3 people $100 for 4 people For more information, please contact Pat at 720-352-5252. Virtual access will be available for those who are unable to attend.

Same Cloth

WHEN: Through Feb. 25, 2023; 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. WHERE: Dazzle @ Baur's Same Cloth is a Denver-based project led by prolific keyboardist Solomon J. Chapman Sr. and inventive vocalist JoFoKe. Embarking upon a new musical journey, this charismatic duo combines their peculiarities to share meaningful art. Performing original music and creative cover arrangements, Same Cloth’s musical vision is intensified and rounded out by Will Gaines on bass, Callum Bair and James Tré on guitar, and Matt Campbell on drums. As a unit, Same Cloth combines the diverse traditions of Black American Music to create an energetically eclectic and emotionally elevating live music experience. See them in back-to-back performances on one special night!



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