9 Wellness Books, Podcasts, and Documentaries That Honor Black History Month
Check out this list of wellness books, podcasts, and documentaries that recognize the beauty in Black history and culture — not just for this month, but always.
Black History Month is a time of year dedicated to basking in the brilliance of African American heritage; to honoring and celebrating the accomplishments of African Americans throughout history; to acknowledging the progress of the men and women (and nonbinary folks) who came before us and who are here right now; to showing compassion and having self-compassion; to recognizing the struggle and sacrifice of the Black community.
It started as national Negro History Week, created by historian Carter G. Woodson in 1915, and brought to fruition in 1926, according to History.com. It was later extended to the entire month of February, coinciding with the birthdays of President Abraham Lincoln (who issued the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing slaves in the Confederacy) and Frederick Douglass (an escaped slave who became a prominent activist, author, public speaker, and leader in the abolitionist movement).
Black folks hold an unwavering space in the tragedy that is American history. A history in which they were enslaved and continue to gave everyday racism coupled with an ongoing issue of police brutality. But Black history is resilience. Black history is world history and deserves everyday celebration. There's enough space in the world to celebrate and honor Black history, Black love, Black joy, Black contributions, and Black success every month of the year.
Here are nine ways you can support the Black community across many mediums. Know that these are but a few options of many out there; hopefully, this list only further encourages your exploration.
(Note: You can listen to any of these podcasts on Spotify, Apple, or wherever you listen to your podcasts. As for the books, I suggest buying from the authors and publishers themselves so that the money you're spending actually supports the author, and doesn't go towards third-party retailers who take some of the proceeds themselves.)
You may know Amanda Seales from the HBO show Insecure or one of her many comedy specials. As a comedian, actress, writer, producer (and about a million other titles), she creates with a fierce rawness that smacks you in the face, a force all on her own. Her podcast Small Doses digs into everything and anything, from toxic relationships and mindsets to the recent coup in the White House. Seales dishes out doses of truth using her life experiences to help others realize their own and find beauty and humor in the world.
Brittany Luse and Eric Edding co-host The Nod, a podcast that's truly a breath of fresh air. The Nod tells stories of Black life with such retrospection and appreciation, you end every episode a little wiser. Episodes range from eight minutes of speaking with Prentice Penny about his work on Insecure to 45 minutes of exploring romance novels that center Black women. Despite bringing on big-name guests, Luse and Edding are the stars of this podcast. You hear the way they see the world, and you revel in it. Though there hasn't been a new episode since October of 2020 (Luse and Edding are working on retaining ownership of the brand they've poured themselves into since 2017), there are plenty of episodes to catch up on while you're waiting for new stuff.
Co-hosted by Shereen Marisol Meraji and Gene Demby, Code Switch is the race talk we all need. They cover every industry (including politics, sports, pop culture, and entertainment) and every topic imaginable, fully breaking down the things you're seeing in your newsfeed and social channels. A team of multi-racial journalists tell stories from people of all ages that speak to and include everyone, recognizing how important every person is in the building of collective history. By telling stories through various lived experiences, they display the intricate ways race impacts your everyday life. (Related: The Best Health and Fitness Podcasts to Listen to Right Now)
Heart Talk by Cleo Wade
Heart Talk digs into the truth behind who we are as human beings. It's a piece of both self-compassion and outward compassion for others; through essays, scribbled notes, poems, and lines of advice that she wrote to herself in her New York City apartment, Wade connects with both herself and you as a reader. You'll leave feeling as though she knows exactly what you're going through. Heart Talk is a gentle reminder to love yourself purely and deeply, without judgment.
Pleasure Activism by Adrienne Maree Brown
Adrienne Maree Brown's most recent book, Pleasure Activism: The Politics of Feeling Good, conveys the intersection of pleasure and social justice. As an activist, author, and doula, she speaks of using love in every moment of life — including moments of political change. A combination of personal essays and conversations with feminist thought-leaders fill the pages. Brown recognizes pleasure as a source of change both within the world and inside each individual and gives explicit instructions on how to reach that point for yourself.
Birthing Justice edited by Julia Oparah and Alicia Bonaparte
Seeing myself represented in the literature I read about reproductive health is so important to me as a Black woman. Birthing Justice: Black Women, Pregnancy, and Childbirth compiles research, philosophy, and personal stories, recounting the experience and disparity Black women experience in the medical world. Birthing Justice isn't the easiest read but it's a worthy one — not only as a learning experience, but also as a call for change. (See: Why the U.S. Needs More Black Female Doctors)
The book hit shelves in 2016 but what's inside still rings true today. Fortunately, there are valuable resources for Black women who're expecting in the works (such as LOOM, a platform for on-demand classes on sexual and reproductive health) and some that already exist, such as Black Mamas Matter Alliance. (More here: 11 Ways Black Women Can Protect Their Mental Health During Pregnancy and Postpartum)
The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson by David France
Watch it on: Netflix
Released in 2017, The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson tells the unabridged version of what really happened at the Stonewall uprising in 1969. The movie centers on Anti-Violence Project activist Victoria Cruz's investigation into the mysterious death of Marsha P. Johnson, a prominent figure in the Stonewall events and a gay liberation activist, which was initially ruled a suicide. This doc takes you on a walk down memory lane, remembering the great life of a beloved activist for trans and gay rights. (Related: How to Celebrate Pride By Learning Its *Real* History)
13th by Ava DuVernay
Watch it on: Netflix
In 13th, discover the history of how the 13th amendment — which was adopted in 1865 and abolished slavery under all circumstances except as a punishment for crime — influenced the modern criminal justice system. Through a combination of old footage and interviews with political figures, director Ava DuVernay uses the doc to expose the ugly and lasting impact of systemic racism and share the truth about the 13th amendment and its effect on who, in fact, gets incarcerated today.
Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders
Watch it on: Hulu
This documentary dives into the life of legendary novelist and writer Toni Morrison. Tag along as she and an accompaniment of peers remember stories, recall history, and explore the world in which Morrison lived and created — specifically, reflecting on the “white male gaze” and her lifelong deconstruction of this master narrative. As the first Black American woman to win a Nobel Prize, she chose to write about the Black experience as a way to represent what she wasn't already seeing in literature. (Up next: How to Uncover Your Implicit Bias)