Celebrating Black History Month 2021 in Our Community

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Celebrating Black History Month 2021 in Our Community

Categories: YWCA Utah's Story

Black History Month may look a bit different this year as many community organizations, non-profits, and activists shift their work and celebrations virtual to keep our community safe, but there is no shortage of opportunities to gather virtually to celebrate the month. Whether it be a panel, film screening, art exhibit, or keynote speaker, we’ve put together a list of several opportunities to celebrate and lift up black voices and folks in our community.

The History

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.  

 The 1960s had a dramatic effect on the study and celebration of black history. Before the decade was over, Negro History Week would be well on its way to becoming Black History Month. The shift to a month-long celebration began even before Dr. Woodson’s death. As early as the 1940s, blacks in West Virginia, a state where Woodson often spoke, began to celebrate February as Negro History Month. In Chicago, a now forgotten cultural activist, Fredrick H. Hammaurabi, started celebrating Negro History Month in the mid-1960s. Having taken an African name in the 1930s, Hammaurabi used his cultural center, the House of Knowledge, to fuse African consciousness with the study of the black past. By the late 1960s, as young blacks on college campuses became increasingly conscious of links with Africa, Black History Month replaced Negro History Week at a quickening pace. Within the Association, younger intellectuals, part of the awakening, prodded Woodson’s organization to change with the times. They succeeded. In 1976, fifty years after the first celebration, the Association used its influence to institutionalize the shifts from a week to a month and changed the name from Negro history to Black History Month. 

The theme for Black History Month 2021 is, “Black Family: Representation, Identity, and Diversity” which explores the African diaspora and the spread of Black families across the United States.  

Film Screenings & Panels for Black History Month

RESILIENCE: The Biology of Stress & The Science of Hope

Presented by: The Sojourner Group & Utah Film Center

Tune in on February 4th at 7 PM to watch this special film screening of Resilience, presented by the Sojourner Group, and a post-film discussion with Dr. Valerie Flattes, APRN, ANP-BC, and Robin Smith, BS, SSW, CCM; hosted by Carol J. Matthews-Shifflett, Owner and CEO of The Sojourner Group, and Saundra Stokes, Chief Mission Impact Officer, YWCA Utah.

Pre-Register here 

Resilience is about the body of stress and the science of hope. It reveals how toxic stress can trigger hormones that wreak havoc on the brains and bodies of children. Trailblazers in pediatrics, education, and social welfare are using cutting-edge science and field-tested therapies to protect children from the insidious effects of toxic stress and the dark legacy of a childhood that no child would choose.

This event is presented as a partnership between The Sojourner Group, Planned Parenthood Association of Utah, Peace House, YWCA Utah, University of Utah Tanner Humanities Center, University of Utah Gender-Based Violence Consortium, and Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault (UCASA).

The Smithsonian: Heritage & History Month Events

Join the Smithsonian all month long as they celebrate the rich, deep contributions that African Americans have made to our country, lifting up Black History and voices throughout the month, including vibrant performances, lectures, and family activities that celebrate our nation’s rich cultural heritage and history. There are so many events to chose from such as:

Historically Speaking: Four Hundred Souls – A Conversation with Ibram Kendi and Keisha N. Blain

February 02, 2021 | 5 PM MT

Renowned scholars Ibram X. Kendi, author of How to Be an Antiracist, and Keisha N. Blain, author of Set the World on Fire have assembled 90 extraordinary writers to document the four-hundred-year journey of African Americans from 1619 to the present. Entitled Four Hundred Souls, each contributor writes about a five-year period of 400 years of American history using essays, short stories, personal vignettes, and fiery polemics. They approach history from various perspectives: through the eyes of towering historical icons, the untold stories of ordinary people, as well as landmarks, laws, and artifacts. An extraordinary moderated discussion featuring editors Kendi and Blain will focus on historic eras such as Slavery, Reconstruction, Segregation, and their sustained impact on the United States.

Register here

Art Exhibitions & Community Events

Black Refractions: Highlights from the Studio Museum in Harlem

University of Utah’s Museum of the fine arts 

Featuring more than one hundred works by nearly eighty artists from the 1920s to the present, “Black Refractions: Highlights from The Studio Museum in Harlem” surveys nearly a century of creative achievements by artists of African descent. This landmark exhibition explores the vital contributions of these artists, proposing a plurality of narratives of Black artistic production and multiple approaches to understanding these works.

The exhibition draws from the unparalleled collections of the renowned Studio Museum in Harlem. The UMFA is one of just six museums in the United States who will host this dynamic exhibition.

Reserve tickets here


The University of Utah’s Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Events Calendar

This is a go-to calendar for all of the events being hosted by the University of Utah. Each event has a link with registration information and any costs that may be associated with their events. Some are free others are not but please take the time to check it out. There’s something for everybody! 

See the full calendar


Guest Speakers

Black Lives Matter in Business | David Eccles School of Business

FEBRUARY 1, 2021 2:30 PM – 3:30 PM MST

Hear the stories and perspectives of a variety of black voices in the business world including their successes, challenges, and paths to where they are now.


  • James Jackson III, Principal, and Professional Coach, J3 Motivation, & Vice President Supplier Diversity Program Manager, Zions Bancorporation
  • Mikell Brown, Mortgage Professional, Christian Roberts Mortgage
  • Karen Rodriguez La Paz, Head of Diversity & Inclusion, Purple & CEO, Code in Color
  • Marlon Lindsay, CEO, TechTrep

Register here

Amplifying Black Queer Voices: Representation Will Not Save Us

FEBRUARY 16, 2021 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM MST

Join the Black Cultural Center for the Community Discussion Series: Amplifying Black Queer Voices each third Tuesday of the month! This semester’s theme is “Where is Black in the Rainbow? Amplifying Black Queer voices in LGBTQ+ Spaces.”

In this third iteration of the series, Ya-Ya Fairley (they/them) will present on “Representation Will Not Save Us.”

Register here


Weber State University’s Diversity Events Calendar

Check out Weber State University’s Diversity Office’s events calendar for a full listing of their Black History Month events this year. Their focus during Black History Month is “The Black Family”. More info is coming soon! 



Support for Local Black-Owned Businesses

The Utah Black Chamber of Commerce

Through strategic partnerships with government agencies, corporations, and community members, we will continue to empower and strengthen the foundation of black businesses and provide growth pathways that enrich and embolden community members to be their best selves. Here is a link to their page which lists some black-owned businesses. Take a look, explore and consider making your next purchase from these companies.

SEE The Black Chamber’s listSEE BLACK LIVES MATTER UTAH’s list

Books by Black Authors

While there’s plenty of lists circulating today of great books by black authors, we’ve collected some of the best ones from Oprah Magazine to help you make your next purchase.

44 of the Best Books by Black Authors You Should Read in Your Lifetime

10 Powerful bell hooks Books on the Intersectionality of Race and Feminism

These Four LGBTQ+ Authors Are Changing How We View Black Queer Literature


A Note

While this by no means a comprehensive list, it’s a great starting point for folks, no matter their interests. As we look towards being more mindful of how we gather in community for conversation, change, and compassion, we hope you find this list helpful.