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Recommendations from our staff: Black Americans in contemporary media and our community

Throughout Black History Month, our staff members have been sharing recommendations with each other over email, on Slack, during calls, and in the office. As we celebrate Black History Month, we are joining in the celebration of the vast contributions of Black Americans to the arts. We gathered all of our recommendations, and want to share them with you so that we can celebrate Black culture and art not only this month but year-round.

Literature, food, and art are all cornerstones of culture, and they allow us to explore the African Diaspora in our own homes and communities. Books are a means of making a history concrete, a way to share ideas and to pass down stories. Movies can be a celebration of life, an exploration of hardships, and a way to document history in visual form. In our communities, we can engage in the community by patronizing local businesses and by sharing our recommendations with friends and family. For every $100 dollars spent at local businesses, $68 of those stay in the local economy (Forbes), our dollars matter. We are especially lucky in DC, nicknamed The Chocolate City, where we have a wealth of Black-owned businesses covering every category.

Each recommendation has a personal endorsement from one of our staff members. Our hope is that this list will help you find movies to watch with family and friends, books and authors to discover, and restaurants and shops to adventure to throughout the year. We are excited to join you in celebrating Black History Month both this month and beyond.

What we’re watching:

Women of the Movement, TV show streaming on Hulu

“Women of the Movement is a limited series based on the true story of Emmett Till and his mother, activist Mamie Till-Mobley. An ABC production that can be streamed on Hulu. Very powerful” – JaiFawn Hood, Senior Operations Manager

Summer of Soul, documentary streaming on Hulu

“Summer of Soul is a documentary with archival footage from the summer of 1969 at the Harlem Cultural Festival which celebrated Black history, music, culture, and fashion. It is a beautiful expression of Black joy during a time in history when the Black community was experiencing major loss, discrimination, and inequity. The soundtrack is fantastic and it is such an inspiring piece.” – Michael Waxman, CEO

13th, documentary streaming on Netflix

“When I was a teaching assistant in college, I had my students watch this documentary while we talked about the judicial system. This class was usually so quiet, it felt like pulling teeth to get answers out of them for discussion. I had never seen them so passionate about an issue in class before this, many students ended up staying after class got out to continue our discussion. 13th will stir you into action and spark important conversations among friends and family.” – Catherine Gorman, Senior Associate- Marketing

Let the World See, documentary streaming on ABC, Youtube TV, and Hulu

“Let the World See, produced in association with Shawn Carter and Roc Nation, Will Smith, and Westbrook Studios, and Aaron Kaplan and Kapital Entertainment is a short series that chronicles Ms. Mamie Till-Mobley’s fierce quest for justice that sparked the civil rights movement after her son Emmett Till’s brutal murder, inspiring heroes like Ms. Rosa Parks and others to stand up boldly for their rights.” – JaiFawn Hood, Senior Operations Manager

What we’re reading:

The New Jim Crowe by Michelle Alexander

“This book was illustrative in the ways that the war on drugs and mass incarceration combine to create a modern-day Jim Crow-like caste system. The author does a great job articulating how so many of today’s injustices are a product of the “tough on crime practices” (aka racist police brutality) that defined law enforcement in the last few decades of the 20th century, and today as well.” – Noah Rothstein, Associate- Environment

Me and White Supremacy: Combat Racism, Change the World, and Become a Good Ancestor by Layla Saad

“28-day challenge guide that explores the history of racism, provides examples of how white supremacy is consciously and unconsciously perpetuated, and what can be done to stop inflicting damage on Black, Indigenous and people of color.” – Aliya Degeneste-Wheeler, Senior Director of People and Culture

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

“This book describes the lives of two twins who are incredibly close until one leaves their life in New Orleans for California without a trace and goes on to live a life passing as a white woman. The book details their lives apart and how they still intersect over ~40 years. An incredible read that is a reflection on how our handling of race forces choices and how people grapple with identity and family in light of that.” – Claire McAndrew, VP- Health

How to be Less Stupid About Race by Crystal M. Fleming

“This book was written by one of my favorite people that I follow on Twitter, Crystal M. Fleming (@alwaystheself). She is a Race Studies professor who writes about organizing for anti-racism, historical roots of racist myths, and how to deepen our engagement in anti-racist education. It’s also available via Kindle and Audiobook from the DC library (yay for free things!)” – Catherine Gorman, Senior Associate- Marketing

Homegoingn by Yaa Gyasi

“This fictional novel explores the stories of generations of descendants of two sisters from Ghana – one who became a slave in America, and the other who married a white man in her home country. The stories through each generation show how the fates of the sisters shaped the lives of their families through the modern day.” – Helen Robins, Senior Associate- Health

Yinka, Where Is Your Huzband? by Lizzie Damilola Blackburn

“Yinka, Where Is Your Huzband” by Lizzie Damilola Blackbun is a 2022 debut release about a 30-something British Nigerian woman navigating cross cultural identities, family expectations, colorism, and dating.” – Zara Day, JD/MPH Senior Director- Health

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

“Americanah is a 2013 novel by the Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. It tells the story of a Nigerian woman, Ifemelu, who immigrates to the U.S. and discusses the challenges of identity between Black Americans and African immigrants in America.” – Silicia Lomax, MPH Senior Associate- Health

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

“Henrietta Lacks was Black woman and patient at Johns Hopkins who unknowingly “donated” cells in the 50s that were reproduced indefinitely and have been used in groundbreaking scientific research for decades. This book (and the movie that’s on HBO) addresses Henrietta’s contribution to the scientific and medical community and shares the ethical ramifications and questions that emerged about medical consent. Henrietta’s cells were duplicated without her knowledge/consent and her family never received any compensation. It’s an important read for anyone who works in health fields, and everyone who has benefitted from health research (so everyone!)” – Helen Robins, Senior Associate- Health

Where we’re eating and where shopping:

Half Smoke, restaurant in the U Street neighborhood of DC

“Great food and right off of Florida Ave, just beyond U Street~ The menu offers sausages and other grilled food. The owner helped organize the DC Black-Owned Restaurant Sweepstakes which helped drive business to Black-owned restaurants in DC.” – Noah Rothstein, Associate- Environment

Melange, restaurant in the Mount Vernon Triangle neighborhood of DC

“Best chicken sandwich in town, also has burgers and vegan items. Head chef blends his Ethiopian and French backgrounds in his American cuisine!” – Helen Robins, Senior Associate- Health

BLK Swan, restaurant in Baltimore, MD

“BLK Swan is a restaurant of the Outkrowd group and is an urban oasis for trendsetters, urbanites, and influencers. Their menu brings you the experience of tasty and dynamic variations on American classics compliments of Chef Saon. BLK Swan offers an exciting and elegant dining experience with a twist of urban flair.” – JaiFawn Hood, Senior Operations Manager

Milk and Honey Cafe restaurants throughout Maryland

“Soul food in a relaxed, fun environment. Staff are friendly and the food is fantastic.” – Aliya Degeneste-Wheeler, Senior Director of People and Culture

Petit Souer, chocolate shop in the Georgetown neighborhood of DC

“New chocolate store specializing in glossy bonbons opening in Georgetown! The chocolatier Ashleigh Pearson previously worked at award-winning restaurants and studied pastry in France. Also available to order online!” – Helen Robins, Senior Associate- Health

Next Phaze Cafe, MPH Senior Associate- Health

“If you’re ever in Baltimore and in the mood for some amazing wings and soul food, Next Phaze Cafe is a great place to order from. It is a Black-owned restaurant that often features local Black artists on Friday nights and it’s also available on Door Dash with pretty fast delivery times (I recommend the honey old bay wings!)” – Silicia Lomax, MPH Senior Associate- Health

Black Box Botanical, plant shop in the Takoma neighborhood of DC

“New plant store, Black woman-owned, also has workshops on things like herbal mixology, plant and paint, and clay throwing.” – Helen Robins, Senior Associate- Health

Loyalty Books, bookstore in the Petworth neighborhood of DC and Silver Spring

“Loyalty was founded by Hannah Oliver Depp, a Black and Queer bookseller who has spent her career working to diversify the book industry in order for it to better serve the powerful communities of color and queerness.” – Zara Day, JD/MPH Senior Director, Health

 

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