February is Black History Month, a tribute to generations of African Americans who have struggled with adversity to achieve full citizenship in our country’s society. The Philadelphia Protestant Home (PPH), a nonprofit senior living community located in the lower Northeast section of Philadelphia, is truly taking the “month” in this name seriously.

Rather than just paying lip service to the holiday with an activity or two, PPH is holding an event (sometimes two) each and every day throughout February. PPH staff and residents have made “Black History Month” truly a month-long celebration with a packed schedule of lectures, films and trips to recognize the frequently neglected tribulations and triumphs of African Americans throughout our country’s history.

A Community-Wide Labor of Love
In the works since September, this labor of love took many staff and residents coming together to plan this month of events that focus on health and wellness and the contributions of African Americans. Valerie Williams, PPH Community Outreach Specialist, worked closely with Carol Drummond, a PPH resident of 6 ½ years, to plan the month’s events. Carol had the original vision of pulling out all the stops to celebrate, asked Valerie to join her, they reached out to more staff and residents and the rest is history.

“The ball got rolling, and it just become a labor of love.” says Carol.

For 2022, the focus of Black History Month is on acknowledging medical scholars and health care providers, a topic that is especially timely as we enter the third year of the COVID-19 epidemic, which has disproportionately impacted minority communities.

Once PPH team discovered this year’s theme, they took off from there to plan a wide range of events that would showcase different categories of African American contributions. From entertainment to science to wellness, events were chosen because they are “educational, informative and enlightening,” “Black history is American history,” says Valerie.

It was good to see all of this energy behind it and the excitement.

Carol agrees. “You work on different parts and seeing it all come together is very exciting.”

Making Black History Month Everyone’s Month

Residents are looking forward to all of the possibilities. “they are so excited,” says Valerie. “We’ve got a whole calendar of different things. I think this is the first time we’ve done a whole month of this.”

In all of PPH’s programming, the aim was to bring the community together. “It’s really for everyone,” Carol and Valerie agreed. Some of the health topics are especially timely as they focus on safety during COVID-19, bringing to life why PPH does what it does to protect residents.

14 Ways to Celebrate All Month Long

A group of PPH residents pose in front of the entrance to ” Audacious Freedom: African Americans in Philadelphia 1776-1876,” a permanent exhibit at the African American Museum in Philadelphia. The trip to the museum — a PPH scheduled trip — coincided with Black History Month and the many activities and events at PPH throughout February. For more on Black History Month at PPH, visit our blog at pphfamily.org/blog.

Here are just a few highlights of the powerful events that will be presented throughout February  — mostly virtually due to COVID-19. “My hope is that we have something for everyone,” says Carol.

Feel free to borrow these ideas for your own Black American History Month celebrations:

  1. Community outing to The African American Museum [ links to: https://www.aampmuseum.org/] in Philadelphia, which is the first institution built by a major U.S. city to house and interpret the life and work of African Americans
  2. “A Look Back at Medical Schools and Hospitals in Philadelphia,” a lecture by Ann Eichner, PPH pastoral care assistant, including Mercy-Douglass Hospital, an African-American hospital and the first training school for black nurses in Philadelphia
  3. “Amend: The Fight for America.” Hosted by Will Smith, this documentary looks at the fight for equal rights in America through the lens of the 14th Amendment. “This event encapsulates everything we’re doing throughout the month,” says Valerie. “It’s education for everyone.” (available on Netflix)
  4. Presentation about Ala Stanford, founder and CEO of the Black Doctors’ COVID-19 consortium, which focuses on providing testing and vaccinations to the most vulnerable residents
  5. “Many Rivers to Cross,” a six-part documentary series written and presented by Harvard scholar Dr. Henry Louis Gates, encompasses the full sweep of the African American experience, from the transatlantic slave trade to the second term of president Barack Obama. (available on Netflix)
  6. “Mental Health & COVID,” a lecture presented by Dr. Damaraju and Dr. Junod
  7. The Black Godfather,” a documentary following the life of Clarence Avant, showcasing the contributions of this mentor and rainmaker in music, culture, tv, film and politics. (available on Netflix)
  8. “The 13th,” a movie that looks at the prison system in the United States and how it brings to light the country’s history of racial injustice. (available on Netflix)
  9. “Healthy Choices in Nutrition.” PPH Nutritionist Cathy Boland will go beyond the typical presentation about eating more fruits and vegetables to a discussion of how residents can take what they typically eat and refine it to make it more healthy
  10. “Food Desert” — Ted Talk that addresses the underlying racism in the American food service, which handicaps people who live in areas lacking supermarket that sell fruits and vegetables. (available on YouTube) Subjects of other Ted Talks presented at PPH this month: issues in race-based medicine, healthy plant-based diets for the black community and the impact of racism on everyone’s health.
  11. “All Day and a Night ” — a dramatic film about a rapper who serves a life sentence and looks back on his abusive childhood and the events before his arrest (Available on Netflix)
  12. The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind,” the true story of William Kamkwamaba, a young Malawian boy who saved his family and village from drought and famine by building his own wind turbine. (available on Netflix) “It’s a very wonderful story,” says Carol.
  13. Century performs as Sojourner Truth, a slave who was promised freedom, cruelly denied it, then emancipated herself and became a preacher and one of the leading figures of her day.
  14. “Quincy,” a documentary profiling music legend Quincy Jones, the record producer, musician, songwriter, composer, arranger, and film and television producer. (Netflix)

This is only a portion of what PPH is offering: other events include a presentation on senior safety by the local police department coordinated by Bill Conaway, Director of Community Relations, a presentation on PPH COVID-19 protocols by Eileen Bratton, Director of Infection Control, a presentation by Maureen Solomon, Wellness center Director on exercise in one’s room and more.

“We all worked together,” says Valerie. “Our motto is ‘We’re Family,’ and it was truly a family effort to make this all happen, which makes it even more special.”

To learn more about how your community can celebrate Black History Month, visit Blackhistorymonth.gov.