I attended an elementary school where we sang "Lift Every Voice and Sing" at the beginning of every assembly and "Eyes on the Prize" was a normal part of the curriculum. As an adult, I discovered that this was not a common experience for others in my age group. Looking back, I know that this uncommon learning experience was partly influenced by one specific teacher on staff, Mrs. Mamie Till Mobley. She was committed to ensuring that we knew our history because one simply can't move forward without that knowledge.
There are many variations of the idea that if you don't know where you came from, you can't know where you're going. The version I hold to is the concept of sankofa, which is a West African word that loosely translates as "looking back to move forward." This practice encourages me both as a Christ follower and as a Black woman. While I have learned much valuable history from documentaries and books, I love connecting to Black history through the arts. Because Black history is U.S. history, I encourage you to take time this Black History Month to explore works of art by Black creators.
For me, growing up Black meant memorizing and reciting the works of Black poets. These poems have shaped how I see God, myself, and others. Even now, I can easily recite entire poems or sections of poems by Langston Hughes, Maya Angelou, Nikki Giovanni, and Chicago's own Gwendolyn Brooks—to name a few!
This Black History Month, I invite you to explore Black history and culture each day through the words of Black poets. I've provided twenty-one poems, and I challenge you to choose seven poems on your own to read the last week of the month.
This content was originally curated by Nilwona Nowlin for IVP's Fuel for Justice email newsletter.
Want to invest in reading books and learning more from Black authors? Check out IVP's Black History Month sale and meet more of our Black authors.
If you're looking for more poetry ideas for the last week of February, look inside Drew Jackson's books of poetry inspired by the Gospel of Luke—God Speaks Through Wombs and Touch the Earth.