“Never underestimate the power of dreams and the influence of the human spirit.
We are all the same in this notion: The potential for greatness lives within each of us.”
— Wilma Rudolph, United States track and field athlete
As the United States celebrates Black History Month during the month of February, we can all take the opportunity to honor the dreams, hopes and sometimes neglected accomplishments of black Americans throughout history.
Inspired by this movement created to celebrate the great accomplishments of their ancestors and role models, a group of Elfster users has come together with the help of social media to “celebrate their blackness and the brilliance of other black people that are venturing into business,” says gift exchange organizer Dawn Peters.
“[We are] a group of black people exchanging gifts from black owned businesses,” Dawn explains. “It forces people to search for these businesses and become supporters of people that look like them. When this movement takes off, I would like for people to do it within their cities and have them buy locally as opposed to online.”
Celebrating A Rich History
The idea of celebrating the accomplishments of black people in this country is not new. While studying at Harvard University in the early 1900s, Carter G. Woodson, an African-American historian, was frustrated by the fact that he saw little representation of black people in history books. Likewise, these accomplishments were not being taught or celebrated in the United States. It was Woodson who created the foundation for what is now our nation’s Black History Month observed by schools and communities each February.
At its inception, the celebration took place during the second week of February to honor two important birthdays in black history: Frederick Douglass’ birthday on February 14 and Abraham Lincoln’s birthday on February 12. Douglass was a famous African-American writer, speaker, and anti-slavery activist and Lincoln was the U.S. president who made the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing the nation’s slaves. Both of these men are major figures in black history, particularly in the fight against slavery. Since then, U.S. Presidents have issued national decrees with each year’s theme since the 1970s. Black History Month’s 2016 theme is “Hallowed Grounds: Sites of African American Memories.”
Supporting Black-Owned Businesses
To bring her group together from all over the country, Dawn says, “I tweeted, texted, and then posted on Snapchat. My online community consists of what is known as ‘black twitter.’ Dawn’s group connects and supports one another in this movement to help black-owned businesses.
“Elfster sent out a general email about using the site year round for like Valentine’s Day office parties or something,” she explains. “But, I thought it would be cool to do something festive for Black History Month. I am a veteran Elfster user for Christmas gift exchanges. However, a lot of the people in the group had never used it.”
Participants in this month’s exchange are wishing for inspirational gifts, like artwork, silk bonnets, shea moisture products, essential oils, books, t-shirts with positive messages of black people, jewelry, etc., Dawn says.
“People are looking at other folk’s wish lists and adding it to their own list,” she adds. “It’s a great networking tool.”
And now that they have connected for such an inspired movement, what’s next for this group?
“I would really like to do [an exchange] for Juneteenth,” Dawn explains. “Juneteenth commemorates the announcement of the abolition of slavery even though it came 2 1/2 years after Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. I would like to get maybe 100 participants for that and expand even more for Black History Month 2017.” Juneteenth is celebrated on June 19.
We would love to hear how your own group is using Elfster to spread the word for your inspirational movement, too. You can reach us via Facebook here. Tweet us @Elfster or catch us on Instagram @Elfster.
photo credit: Fanm Djanm, Arimas Jewelry, Kashmir.VIII