For many, Black and African Heritage Month is a time for learning, sharing, and community. Presented here are read, watch, and listen to recommendations from students, staff, and faculty around campus. This list will grow throughout the month with additions added to the top of the page.
compiled and edited by Shayla Brown
Updated 23 February 2023
Read The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo by Tom Reiss. This 2012 novel was recommended by Anne Reynolds, the Office of University Advancement and Alumni Relations director of advancement communication. It won the Pulitzer Prize for biography and recounts the story of General Alex Dumas, the real-life father of Alexandre Dumas -- author of The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo. “General Dumas was a brilliant commander of armies during the French Revolution and was also the son of an enslaved person, born in Saint-Domingue (now Haiti). The book is a great story of his military exploits but also explores the multi-racial society that 18th-century France tried to establish,” said Reynolds.
Watch “High on the Hog: How African American Cuisine Transformed America” on Netflix, recommended by Patriot parent Duane Diviney. The 2021 docuseries is based on the culinary narrative history book High on the Hog: A Culinary Journey from Africa to America by Jessica B. Harris. This series shows that Black food is American food. “Black and African Heritage Month annually offers a time to reflect upon how foundational the cultures and experiences of Americans of African descent are to America's past, present, and future,” Diviney said.
Read Blues People by Leroi Jones (Amiri Baraka), recommended by alum and assistant professor of jazz studies John Kocur. This book, published 60 years ago, is one of the first full-length books on jazz and blues by a Black author, Kocur said. “Baraka pulled no punches as he honestly assessed ‘The Negro Experience in White America and the Music that Developed from it’ as the subtitle puts it,” Kocur said. “I first read it as a graduate student at Howard University, and it has stuck with me ever since.”
Experience another recommendation by Kocur, who also suggests listening to the 2021 album We Are by Jon Batiste, a mix of jazz, soul, pop, hip-hop, and R&B. The album has 13 songs and is just under 38 minutes. It is Batiste’s sixth album and won the 2022 Grammy Award for Album of the Year. It includes award-winning songs such as “Freedom,” “I Need You,” and “Cry.”
Updated 16 February 2023
Read (and watch) “Kindred” written by Octavia Butler,
recommended by Amanda Leigh Bryan, an assistant professor with the English department. This is a story of a time-traveling Black heroine whose trip through time explores the effects of racism, sexism, and White supremacy in the past and the present. “I am loving watching Kindred! It's an amazing retelling of Butler's work,” said Bryan. The novel was turned into a science-fiction series on Hulu in December 2022.
Read “Pregnant Girl: A Story of Teen Motherhood, College, and Creating a Better Future for Young Families” by Nicole Lynn Lewis, recommended by Kelly Chandler, the programs administrator at the Stearns Center for Teaching and Learning. This nonfiction book is written by a Black woman who is from the NOVA area. She also owns a DC nonprofit called Generation Hope, which focuses on supporting pregnant and parenting teens pursuing a college education. “Her story is one of resilience and inspiration and is also extremely informative for faculty, staff, and administration when it comes to the difficulties and barriers that pregnant/parenting students may face, especially those of color. Students would also enjoy and learn from the book, regardless of whether they are pregnant/parenting or a person of color themselves,” said Chandler.
Listen to the podcast Affirmations for Black Girls hosted by Tyra The Creative, recommended by Davita Colclough, a campus planner Facilities. This podcast provides a space for Black women to be open and vulnerable, to express themselves and their feelings without shame or judgment. Tyra The Creative focuses on reflection while touching on topics such as relationships, faith, careers, self-love, and personal development.
Experience The Legacy Museum: From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration in Montgomery, Alabama, recommended by Jalen Stubbs, a senior Communication major. The museum “displays Black History in full effect, dating from when our ancestors were shipped to America to the present. This museum will have you leaving in tears of not only sadness but tears of joy for what Black people have persevered through,” said Stubbs. The museum also offers exhibits such as the National Memorial for Peace and Justice and a world-class art gallery with works from some of the most celebrated Black artists in the country.
Updated 08 February 2023
Experience the online exhibit “Black is Beautiful: The Photography of Kwame Brathwaite” recommended by Office of University Branding web content creator Jeannine Harvey. The virtual exhibit of Kwame Brathwaite’s photography popularized the political slogan “Black is Beautiful” throughout the late 1950s and 1960s. “It still resonates as powerfully today as it did at the height of the second Harlem Renaissance,” said Harvey. This exhibit features 40 portraits and behind-the-scenes photos of the artistic community in the colorful city of Harlem.
Self-Care Your #1 Priority” by Deon Brown, a licensed clinical psychotherapist. This recommendation came from associate dean of University Life Lewis Forrest. It takes on the various reasons why we put self-care on the back burner and how we can change that about ourselves. This non-fiction read is for readers of all demographics and incorporates resources in each chapter for readers to utilize while working on their self-care habits.
Watch Black Art: In the Absence of Light, a 2021 HBO American documentary film directed and produced by Sam Pollard. This film was recommended by the senior director of communications in the College of Engineering and Computing’s Dean's Office, Martha Bushong. It follows various Black American artists and their contributions to the contemporary art world. The documentary is inspired by the work of artist David Driskell who passed away in 2020. It spotlights current Black artists such as Theaster Gates, Kerry James Marshall, and more.
Listen to The 1619 Podcast by The New York Times, hosted by Nikole Hannah-Jones, who also writes for the NYT Magazine. “I thought it was beautifully made and the storytelling was incredible,” said recommender Philip Wilkerson, employer engagement consultant at University Career Services. The podcast looks at the shadow of American slavery and its effects on today’s society. This audio series is for anyone who enjoys listening to podcasts learning about American history. You can tune in on the NYT website with Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or Stitcher.
01 February 2023
Experience the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC), recommended by staff member Kimbley Green of the Office of University Advancement and Alumni Relations. The museum is dedicated to celebrating the accomplishments, past and present, of the Black community and educating those who visit the building. “The outside of the building is made of beautiful bronze-colored panels, and the inside immerses visitors in endless stories. The museum has education initiatives dedicated to a variety of areas from STEM to early childhood education. Although the focus is African American history, the museum also celebrates the achievements of other underrepresented groups, such as the LGBTQ+ and Latinx communities.” The museum currently has four centers and four exhibitions that showcase the Black experience for visitors to explore.
Watch the Netflix Docu-series When They See Us, recommended by Communication major David Kendrick. The show, directed by Ava DuVernay, tells the tragic story of the Exonerated 5. During a biased police investigation, five Black and Brown men were wrongly accused and convicted of a violent crime. The story spans over 25 years, from their teenage to adult years, as these men navigate a world that sees them as nothing but criminals. The series includes well-known actors such as Michael K. Williams and Joshua Jackson and an award-winning performance from Jharrel Jerome.
Read The Black Guy Dies First: Black Horror Cinema from Fodder to Oscar by Robin R. Means Coleman and Mark H. Harris, recommended by graduate admissions and outreach manager and master’s candidate in English Rafaella Silva. “The Black Guy Dies First is a fantastic look into one of horror's most common clichés: the Black character dies first,” Silva said. “As a horror fan and student of English cultural studies, I am always looking into ways to analyze every plot point from a socio-political perspective as horror films are a reflection of the contemporary societies they are produced in, and the information in this book is the foundation on how to do so. With amusing commentary and well-explained analysis, I recommend this book to any passionate horror fan.” From the 1968 Civil Rights Act and the assassination of Dr. King to cinematic masterpieces such as “Candyman” and “Get Out,” this book explores themes, stereotypes, and the characterization of Black bodies in horror. Read all about the journey of Black characters in horror in cinema with this recommendation.
(This can also be experienced in the form of a documentary called Horror Noire: A History of Black Horror, directed by Xavier Burgin and featuring esteemed actors such as Tony Todd, Jordan Peele, and Loretta Devine.)
Listen to the Mix(ed) Tape Podcast recommended by College of Public Health assistant professor of social work Melissa Villodas, hosted by two Afro-Latin PhDs, Mason’s very own Villodas and economist Andrés Hincapié. Each episode brings listeners multiple guests with diverse perspectives on various topics. Created in July 2020, Mix(ed) Tape Podcast is entering its third year. You can find it on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Amazon Music, and more.
Thanks for joining us on this journey.