4 Resources For Black History Month

This year I’m going to highlight each of the cultural heritage months on the blog. We kick off this month with Black History Month.  

The community I grew up in was largely Latino and Anglos. Costa Mesa’s African-American population is .2%. Here there are lots of opportunities to celebrate Mexican culture but not so much when it comes to the African-American community.  Because of that I have had to be more intentional about exposing myself to Black culture.  I am grateful for friends who have encouraged me on this journey and continue to challenge my white-centric view of the world.  

I’m posting a few resources that I’m currently learning from. I encourage you to share resources that you find helpful in the comments section. I’d love to learn from resources you find valuable.

Also, each month I’ll include a challenge for you to take a next action in standing with or learning from the highlighted culture. 

Here’s the stuff I’m into right now:

13th - a documentary

This film highlights the evolution of enslavement of Black bodies in our nation from slavery to Jim Crow to the war on drugs and mass incarceration. 

While I entered into the social justice arena through the door of immigrants’ rights, the thread of injustice is long and if you keep pulling it, more and more will unravel and be revealed. Immigrant detention led me to the world of injustices in mass incarceration.  Learning from the immigrant experience has not only shaped my understanding of immigrants’ struggle but has led to learning about other areas as well, including the current unfair system of detaining and sentencing people of color, particularly African-Americans.  

This film is eye opening and disturbing in every good way. If the thought, “why are black people so angry?” has ever crossed your mind (whether you want to admit it or not) you need to see this film.  The answer is crystal clear and hopefully you will find yourself outraged and ready for action.

I’ve Got The Light of Freedom- by Charles M. Payne

Before reading this book (I’m half way through the 450 pages) I’m ashamed to say that I could only name about three leaders in the civil rights movment including Dr. King.  This book has changed that. It is a beautiful telling of the grassroots organizing work in Mississippi not only during the civil rights movement but the two decades leading up to it.  It highlights the courageous work of individuals and families in their local communities.  It also follows the stories of key organizers in the area from several national organizations like NAACP and SNCC.

This book is not only educating me, it is giving me a deeper understanding of what is needed to see true change happen. The long struggle for justice of African-Americans, both now and throughout history,  has made a path for other movements to walk on. We are all deeply indebted to them.

The Liturgist Podcast- Episode 34 Black and White Racism in America

This podcast gives a succinct overview of race relations in America. The guests are Propaganda and William Matthews. Propaganda, in his poignant teaching style, shares about his family history in ways that give insight into African-American culture and community.  William Matthews exposes the white evangelical church’s inability to see beyond themselves. I’ve listened to this episode three times because it is so rich.

Dust and Breath Solidarity Music Playlist

This is a great list across a wide range of African-American musicians. 

Next Action:  Visit with your local Police Chief.

This past summer when there were so many police shootings a friend challenged me to meet with our police administration and find out how they train their people to protect against racial bias and what measures they were taking to improve their ability to act justly. 

Last week I joined a small group of neighborhood leaders to sit down with Chief Sharpnack in Costa Mesa.  We were joined by the new public relations manager, Roxi, an immigrant from Ecuador and clearly high capacity leader.  

It was an informative, encouraging time of sharing concerns and discussing our ongoing collaboration toward solutions.  The chief reiterated his commitment to working with the community and goals of training Costa Mesa officers above and beyond the minimum required training in ethics and racial bias.  

I challenge you to get a couple neighbors together and meet with your police administrators. Here are two questions to ask and add in things that are important to you:

What does the department do to prevent racial biases?

What is your current training and what if any improvements do you intend to make?

I'd love to hear insights and what you learn through any of these resources.