Celebrating Black History Month is a great way to bring residents and caregivers of all racial, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds together to create a psychologically and emotionally healthy senior living community.
Black History Month was started in 1917 by author, journalist, and historian, Carter G. Woodson. Woodson, now recognized as the “father of black history,” believed that equality was only possible through the acknowledgment and understanding of a race’s history.
He also hoped that, in the future, Black History Month wouldn’t be necessary. Unfortunately, our society still has a long way to go before that happens. So, how can your facility help acknowledge and understand Black History in the effort to eradicate discrimination?
1. Share Memories
Bringing residents together to share memories from their past is a great way to open up a discussion about Black history. Encourage conversation about major events in history like the march on Washington in 1963 and the “I Have A Dream” speech.
This is a great way to learn about their individual experiences during these events and how the events made an impact on their lives.
2. Share A Quote
Decorate your assisted living facility in new African-American quotes every day this month. Each day, encourage residents and caregivers to read and discuss the importance and meaning of the quotes.
After discussing the quotes, you can go a step further by talking about the person who spoke the quote and their impact on history.
3. Read and Discuss Historical Events
To learn more about Black History, discuss different major events. After discussing these events, spark a discussion with the residents about the events. Ask questions like “Where were you when this was happening?” and “How did this event impact your life?”
Read more about famous Black History events below:
- Harlem Renaissance
- Brown v. Board of Education
- Montgomery Bus Boycott
- Birmingham Church Bombing
- ‘I Have A Dream’ Speech
- Malcolm X Assassination
- Voting Rights Act of 1965
- Martin Luther King Jr. Assassination
- First African American Astronaut in Space
4. Sing Songs
Teach the lyrics to and sing songs that came out around the same time as the Civil Rights Movement. If anyone knows how to play an instrument, ask them if they would like to play while everyone else sings. If not, you can sing along to the song through the radio. After singing each song, discuss the importance of the lyrics and what the song means to each resident.
Popular songs include:
- “Lift Every Voice and Sing”
- “This Little Light of Mine”
- “We Shall Not Be Moved”
- “People Get Ready”
- “A Change is Gonna Come”
- “The Times They Are A Changin'”
- “Aint Nobody Gonna Turn Me ‘Round”
- “95 South”
- “Freedom Highway”
5. February Book Club
If your facility has a book club, this is the perfect time to read a book on African American history. Take this opportunity to educate and understand the impact made by African Americans in this country. You can choose to read a biography on famous Civil Rights Activists like Martin Luther King, Jr. or Rosa Parks, or you can read about significant events like the Birmingham Church Bombing.
Some top books include:
- The Watsons Go To Birmingham
- Buddy, Not Buddy
- Martin Luther King Jr.: A Life
6. Name That Famous Person
This trivia game is a fun way to acknowledge and learn more about famous African Americans in history. Just read facts or biographies about famous African-Americans and ask residents to try and identify who you are talking about.
Once someone guesses the right answer, the group can discuss more about that person. Talk about how that person made an impact on history and all of the great things they achieved.
7. Play Mancala
Teach your residents how to play Mancala, a fun African game that is played with 48 stones and a board with 14 bins. If you don’t have Mancala boards, you can use egg cartons and pebbles. You can learn how to play Mancala here.
To make this even more fun, you can organize a tournament. Have players go against each other and have the winners compete until there is only one person left.
8. Decorate Posters
Host a Black History Poster Contest where residents decorate their own posters and hang them up in your facility. You can have judges judge the posters to announce a winning poster.
This is a great activity for seniors to get creative and learn more about black history. Posters give each resident the perfect opportunity to present events in history from their points of view.
9. Black History Month Dinner
Plan with Dining Services to celebrate the foods of African-American culture by having a Black History Month Dinner. Serve foods like cornbread, steamed greens, black-eyed peas, chicken, and pork. You can even choose to let residents share their favorite recipes for different dishes and serve those at the dinner.
10. Have a Dance
Play some music by African-American artists and have a dance night with the residents. You can choose to play songs from the Civil Rights Movement era or from The Chitlin’ Circuit. The Chitlin’ Circuit came about when African-Americans were not allowed to perform in white establishments. Due to this, a network of black-owned nightclubs and dance halls was born. From these establishments, amazing artists were born such as B.B. King, Otis Redding, Sam Cooke, Ray Charles, James Brown, and more.
After the dance, you can talk about these performers and how they made just a significant impact on the history of music in this country. You can also take this time to teach the residents the art of stepping. Stepping is a popular African American dance that was brought about in black fraternities in the 1940s.
11. Black Poetry Reading
Gather around and have residents recite a poem or two of their choice. Let them talk about the poems and how they interpret the lyrics. You can find a variety of different poems at The Poetry Foundation.
Some of the most famous Black Poetry includes:
- ‘On Being Brought from African to America’
- ‘I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings’
Everybody loves Bingo, so why not host a Black History Month-Theme Bingo? You can find great Black History Bingo templates here. After you announce a square, you can give some history about the significance of that person or event.
This is a great way to have some fun with the residents as well as learn and reminisce about major historical events and Civil Rights leaders.
13. Printable Activities
Coloring pages, crosswords, and trivia games are another great way to get the creative juices flowing. Print out a bunch of these activities and let the residents conversate about Black History while completing the worksheets. This is perfect for all residents because it allows them to work at their own pace.
Learn how you can ensure your facility is equity-focused by reading 7 Tips For Finding An Anti-Racist Long-Term Care Facility.