Smile Politely

How will you celebrate Black joy and excellence this Black History Month and beyond?

Six wooden panels featuring painted headshots of Black women smiling.
Artwork by Keith Jacobs. Spurlock Museum of World Cultures

The first full week of Black History Month is coming to a close, and I’m recalling an article our Editorial Board wrote in honor of the month a couple of years ago, entitled “Seven ways to celebrate Black joy and excellence in C-U.”We spoke of the need to “honor and revel in the laughter, lightness, and fun” alongside the “stories of perseverance, survival, and trauma” which are necessary to learn about and from, but also not the whole of Black experiences in America. We also noted the importance of supporting and uplifting Black communities all year round, not just in February.

It brought to mind two new endeavors that we’ve recently posted about on the “pages” of Smile Politely. Both launched at the beginning of Black History Month, are cultural experiences that will last beyond February 29th, and are celebrations of Black joy and excellence.

Illinois Soul launched on February 1st as a first-of-its-kind-in-the-nation radio service out of Illinois Public Media, with local and national programming as well as music that reflects Black experiences. I’ve been fortunate to speak with some of the folks behind the new station, and I’m looking forward to sharing those conversations soon. 

The Black Joy Project, curated by Dr. Ruby Mendenhall and Florence Adibu, is an year-long exhibit and event series at Spurlock Museum that will celebrate “the beauty, joy, and resilience of Black women and girls and their lived experiences during COVID-19 and the social unrest after the brutal deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and others.” It’s bringing joy out of trauma. 

How will you celebrate Black joy and excellence this Black History Month and beyond? This week, you can look to our monthly Food + Drink and Culture roundups for some ideas. For our part, we will continue to strive to bring those opportunities to the forefront. 

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Managing Editor

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