Black History Month in Black and White

Black History Month honors the struggles, triumphs, and contributions to American society by its citizens of African descent. The month-long acknowledgment of these accomplishments began in 1926, conceptualized and brought to fruition by Dr. Carter G. Woodson, a Black lecturer, scholar, historian and founder of the Journal of Negro History.

What we have come to term Black History Month began life as “Negro History Week”, launched in the second week of February, so chosen because it fell between the birthdays of Fredrick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln, two men whose contributions were invaluable to the individual identity of African Americans as well as our collective consciousness as a nation.

Dr. Woodson saw the necessity of documenting the multitude of accomplishments and struggles which were a part of the African experience in America. Though replete with the narrative of our White brethren, save for anecdotal references to the Negro in an inferior characterization, the history books were glaringly devoid of any substantive, critical, meta-analytical documentation of the African American experience.

They were rarely if ever mentioned in your history books, but If you’ve ever turned on an electric light (Louis Lattimer, inventor and assistant to Thomas Edison), put on that new sweater, turned on your lawn sprinkler, ironed your clothes on an ironing board (Elijah McCoy, inventor), lay in a folding bed (Sarah Goode and first Black woman to hold a patent), stopped at a traffic light (Garrett Morgan), received a blood transfusion (Dr. Charles Drew), turned on your home security system (Marie Van Brittan Brown), used the automatic doors on an elevator (Alexander Miles) felt a chill and turned on your central heating furnace (Alice H. Parker) or bought produce delivered to your local grocery store by a refrigerated truck (Fredrick McKinley Jones) you are indebted to a Black inventor.

Dr. Woodson understood the symbiotic historical relationship between Black History and American History. Nevertheless, he expressed that although the struggles and triumphs of persons of African descent in America are in some respects the struggles and triumphs of America there remained a need to highlight the accomplishments of a heretofore marginalized people from an Afrocentric point of view. He realized the value of the promulgation of the accomplishments of Americans of African descent and their potential inspirational effect on the lives of other African Americans in their fight for self-definition, self-determination and empowerment.

In today’s proclaimed conflict-ridden climate, Black History Month has been termed both unnecessary as well as potentially divisive and as such, several questions have been posed- Does Black History Month still matter? Who does it matter to and what does it serve to represent?

To put it succinctly, yes, Black History Month still matters.

For Black Americans, Black History Month continues to matter as it represents a time to reflect and remember. It is a time to not only celebrate, but to declare. We can celebrate many of the aforementioned accomplishments made in the face of limited support and cooperation. We celebrate and champion “Black Excellence”, a construct borne of the mindset that holds irrespective of outside influences, we will continually seek to both prosper and thrive.

We also take this time to declare. We declare we are still standing. We are still here. We will continue to make our voices heard and our desires known. We declare we are the inheritors of a tradition of a centuries long struggle against injustice. No amount of intimidation, harassment or imposed victimization will stop us from uncovering and telling the factual truth of who we were, who we are and how these findings impact who we state we desire to become as a people and as a nation.

We reflect upon a time in the not too distant past where we were forbidden opportunity speak up making it all the more important to pay attention as we move forward to the manner in which intentionally historically marginalized voices will be heard in the future.

Black History Month serves as a reminder of what has been endured and the need to continually educate ourselves in recognition of the fact that the less regard you have for educating yourself, the less demonstrable capacity you have to think for yourself and the less ability you have to think for yourself, the greater the likelihood you will be manipulated and swayed by those who desire to think for you.

Black History Month has specific implications for White Americans as well.

For White Americans, the month of February provides opportunity to consider and examine your own values, attitudes and biases as they relate to race. Black History Month can be a time where you reflect upon the life experience which have contributed to your understanding of race and multiculturalism. All the while collaterally examining the manner in which race is viewed in the context of the value system you were born into.

Finally for you as a White person, Black History Month can exist as a starting point, a marked beginning for developing a personal action plan for addressing issues of social justice as they relate to disrupting oppression of all forms.

Many of us, Black and White I confess were appalled to recently learn of the massacre that occurred in the Tulsa Oklahoma town of Greenwood. And in our collective disbelief of the atrocities committed, we asked “why were we not taught this in school. The reason is quite simple, if something is not deemed historically important, it is not historically represented. Black History Month serves as a time to uncover hidden history.

In Montana, I’ve come to learn Black History Month is also on opportunity to contemplate some of our shared experiences with our Native American brethren and sisters in understanding what University of New Mexico professor Dr. Maria Yellow Horse Brave Heart defines as “historic trauma”, the experiences of displacement, marginalization and their modern day impact. She argues unresolved grief and loss in the context of the Native experience in America continues to negatively impact their chances to move forward. She further emphasizes the necessity of understanding historic trauma as it is only through this lens whereby reconciliation of these issues may be addressed, and movement forward may commence. She writes “First is confronting the historical trauma. Second is understanding the trauma. Third is releasing the pain of historical trauma. Fourth is transcending the trauma.”.

In terms of the Black experience, I see Dr. Yellow Horse Brave Hearts methodology in dealing with historic trauma as one manner of dealing with race-based trauma, i.e., the impact of years of
racialized epigenetic stressors and how they affect who we are today. It’s my sense this healing process provides a lighted pathway forward for us all.

Montana Black Collective-Missoula
U of M
Murray Pierce
Missoula Community

Missoula Food Bank to Reflect on 2020 at Annual Advocacy Event

Missoula Food Bank to Reflect on 2020 at Annual Advocacy Event

Missoula Food Bank & Community Center’s annual advocacy event, Empty Bowls, Full Souls, will take place the evening of June 16th at Paddlehead Stadium. This event is an opportunity to learn more about food insecurity during the COVID-19 pandemic, and to hear from local families about their journeys in the past year.

“Empty Bowls has always been an event about the issue of hunger being a negative outcome of systemic, upstream issues,” notes Jessica Allred, director of development and advocacy. “The pandemic has exacerbated pressures that existed in our community before, and this event is about relating those larger issues to the homes and lives of our neighbors who are struggling to keep food on the table.”

Featuring speakers who come from lived-experience of food insecurity, event guests are served a simple meal and are also able to choose from hundreds of ceramic bowls, hand-crafted by artists through the Clay Studio of Missoula and the Helena Clay Project. These bowls serve as a reminder that food is a basic right of every person, and that there is widespread food insecurity in our community.

Food Bank leadership will also take time to reflect on services throughout 2020, telling a full story by including the ways that Federal Relief funds impacted families and the issue of food security locally.

Voicing support for relief measures, executive director, Aaron Brock, notes, “As part of relief funding, families have seen assistance like direct stimulus payments, some are able to access rental assistance, and currently families are receiving an increase of 15% in their SNAP benefits. These measures are successful in mitigating the occurrences of hunger in communities, and we want to share how our statistics reflect those successes.”

Tickets remain available for this socially-distanced, outdoor event, and can be purchased at www.missoulafoodbank.org. There is a remote rainy-day plan, in case of inclement weather.

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Missoula Food Bank & Community Center leads the movement to end hunger through advocacy, volunteerism, and healthy food for all. In 2020, 1 in 4 people who live in Missoula County visited our food bank for nutrition assistance. MFB&CC is a nonpartisan, anti-racist, LGBTQ2S+ ally organization. Together with our volunteers, donors, and partners, we nourish community.

June 7, 2021

Contact:

Aaron Brock, Executive Director aaron@missoulafoodbank.org 406-549-0543
Jessica Allred, Director of Development & Advocacy jessica@missoulafoodbank.org 406-529-0543

Governor vetoed bipartisan support for Montana families

Governor vetoed bipartisan support for Montana families

During the 2021 legislative session, our legislators worked to find bipartisan solutions to some of Montana’s most challenging issues. Problems with no silver-bullet solutions, like increasing access to affordable child care, housing that everyday Montanans can afford, and food security — something as basic as knowing where your next meal might come from. One in 10 Montanans lives in a food insecure household, including 35,500 children.

Double SNAP Dollars is a nutrition program that stretches the dollars of SNAP customers to increase access to locally grown fruits and vegetables at farmers markets and other participating sites. The program has demonstrated positive health impacts for participants, while providing financial resources to local farmers.

This legislative session, champions of local farmers and anti-hunger advocates worked hard on a bill that would have expanded Montana’s Double SNAP Dollars program. Legislators worked across the aisle to pass a good bill that made it all the way to the governor’s desk. This bill, House Bill 235, sponsored by Republican Rep. Tom Welch of Dillon, would have provided a small amount of state money to strengthen our existing program. This investment would have allowed Montana’s Double SNAP Dollars program to expand to additional farmers markets and communities.

It is a shame that this good work to support families and benefit farmers was thrown away with a veto by Gov. Greg Gianforte.

Double SNAP Dollars was not the only bill that our governor vetoed, making life harder for Montanans already struggling to make ends meet. He also vetoed a child care task force bill — a bipartisan effort to tackle the crisis that low- and middle-income families face when trying to find safe, affordable care for their children. Additionally, the governor vetoed a bipartisan bill that would have created a state workforce housing tax credit, incentivizing development of homes Montanans can afford. We urge the Legislature to take advantage of their ability to override the housing tax credit veto, an option currently under consideration.

We can all understand the need to balance a budget and prioritize spending where it is most needed. But the costs associated with these projects were minimal and would have contributed towards long-term solutions for Montanans. HB 235, for example, allocated only $95,000 over two years to support the Double SNAP Dollars program. This is a miniscule drop in the budget bucket — and all of it would have been reinvested in local food systems and economies.

At the same time that the governor vetoed these bills supporting everyday Montanans, he signed a number of bills to reduce taxes, primarily for our state’s highest-income households. These tax cuts will result in a significant loss of revenue for our state that could have supported efforts like food security, affordable housing and child care. That low- and middle-income Montanans will likely carry the burden created by these tax cuts is disheartening and immoral. Imagine being willing to offer a tax break to the highest income Montanans but begrudging a low-income family an extra $20 in fruits and vegetables.

Given the divided nature of our political world, we were heartened by the elected officials who did come together across the aisle to accomplish good things on behalf of Montanans. But we are disappointed that many of these efforts were for naught. These bills did not die on lack of merit, but because of our governor’s disconnection with the challenges and realities facing Montanans who are working hard to make ends meet. What a shame.


Lorianne Burhop is chief policy officer for the Montana Food Bank Network. Amanda Cahill is vice chair of the Montana Food Policy Council. Aaron Brock is executive director of the Missoula Food Bank & Community Center.

MFB&CC Request for Proposals

May 18, 2021

Missoula Food Bank & Community Center (MFB&CC) is requesting proposals for design services for an updated website and social media strategy. We are soliciting bids from a limited number of Missoula-based designers.

Scope of Work

We currently do all marketing and social media design in-house, but we are looking for a consultant to help our growing organization take our current material and messaging to the next level. We have great name recognition in the community, but people still think of us primarily as a free grocery store, and we want to use this momentum to highlight our work, programs, community engagement, and to demonstrate our commitment to anti-racism, diversity, advocacy and equity. We are looking for copywriters to help us move forward with our work.

We are seeking bids for a comprehensive marketing package that includes (but is not limited to) the following:

  • Website redesign
    • Prioritize user experience – ease of online donating
    • Ability for MFB&CC staff to maintain website
  • Taglines for social media, website
  • Social media strategy
  • Monthly estimate for website support

Please submit the following documents or answers:

  • What is your philosophy or approach to design?
  • What is your design style?
  • MFB&CC is a nonpartisan, anti-racist, LGBTQ2S+ ally organization. Our facility and programs operate under the highest equitable standards in order to promote justice for everyone. What is your previous experience with anti-racism work or inclusivity?
  • What is the cost of a comprehensive package that would address all of our needs, and what is your fee structure?
  • Who is on your team and who would work on our project?
  • Why are you interested in working with a non-profit? How do you see your role in increasing MFB&CC’s impact in the community?
  • Please provide a timeline for completing these products (in what order, when).
  • Please provide examples of relevant work that is similar in scope to what we need.

Selection Criteria

Proposals will be evaluated on the following criteria:

  • Cost
  • Philosophy
  • Style

Submission

Please submit all documents in PDF or Word to Amanda Ceaser at amanda@missoulafoodbank.org by 4pm on Monday, June 7, 2021. We will acknowledge receipt of your submissions. Thank you for your interest in helping us nourish our community.

Black History x Me and White Supremacy

Melissa Raybon is a teacher, artist and mentor who served as an Americorps Leader in Empower Place. She currently serves on the Anti-Racism Task Force at MFB&CC. As a woman who identifies as half Black and half Xicana, she authored this piece to bring awareness not only to Black History Month and the experiences of the past, but to foster education around the daily lives of BIPOC folks as it relates to the crucial moments we find ourselves in today, and as we strive to create a better future.

For a person of color, a place like Montana can feel daunting and uninviting. However, the Missoula Food Bank & Community Center strives to be a haven for equity and the much needed change that entails…

Why is Black History important?

Black History is important because often within our own communities, communities across this country and beyond, the voices of people of color are set aside or forgotten. It is important to educate youth and families in our community on how to make this world a safer and more inclusive space for all. By sharing information on historical black figures like Bessie Coleman, Langston Huges, and Zora Neale Hurston (to name very few) through unique and engaging activities for youth and families in EmPower Place; we remind ourselves that there is an endless amount of culture and history that makes the United States of America such a rich place to live. We are reminded that early settlers and many in our own communities today did not take into account the importance of treating all people with dignity. And, we are especially reminded that it is our job to work towards the healing of the historical trauma towards our BIPOC community in Missoula, and worldwide.

Every day, as various individuals from all walks of life enter the food bank, we are reminded that we have an opportunity to address the ways that the system we are currently under is failing. Failing to feed those who are most vulnerable and failing to address the diverse history and at times, grotesque trauma that this nation was founded on. We are reminded that the voices and stories of people of color are so very important, now and always, as we move toward the language and ACTION of equity.

Why is the food bank committed to anti-racism work?

As a team of individuals, we have chosen to be a leader within our local community and beyond. Beginning the month of February (formally acknowledged in celebration of Black History), we began the intense, and at times, extremely uncomfortable emotional labor to make our space more inclusive. This work involves being honest and vulnerable in order to uncover the ways that white or white adjacent (white-passing)  people, consciously or subconsciously, re-traumatize or perpetuate systems of inequity and violence in their day-to-day interactions with BIPOC. Often in these spaces, we find that racism does not typically present itself in the outrageous hate crimes we see constantly in our various media outlets, it happens when white people fail to acknowledge that they benefit from a system of deeply ingrained false beliefs surrounding their superiority as a people. In today’s society, if you are a white person that has not committed to this type of deep self-reflection, then you remain complicit in the actions of the most extreme white supremacist groups.

How can we learn to extend love to all of our neighbors, regardless of race, class, gender, etc?

We can commit our lives to anti-racism work. We can read and experience the work of prominent black activists and writers, such as Layla F.Saad and her interactive reading journal Me and White Supremacy that prompts those with the most privilege to encounter how a system of oppression and white supremacy continues to haunt and re-traumatize people of color every day. Especially here in Montana, where the BIPOC population only contributes a staggering amount, how can we offer more than just *optical allyship? The conversation on racism must not stop as we continue  asking ourselves the toughest questions, such as,  how have we remained silent when someone in our presence made a racist remark? It is in these very subtle ways that racism persists.

How can we be an example of change and forethought?

We can do the work and not look to BIPOC for acknowledgement and congratulation when we decide to truly live in accordance with our values for an equitable society, by doing what isn’t always easy and rewarding, but what is necessary.


*Optical Allyship is a term coined by Latham Thomas, founder of Mama Glow and author of Own Your Glow. In an Instagram post from May 1, Thomas defines optical allyship as “allyship that only serves at the surface level to platform the ‘ally,’ it makes a statement but doesn’t go beneath the surface and is not aimed at breaking away from the systems of power that oppress.” Essentially, it is performative allyship. Instead of standing up, building trust, and doing the groundwork to disassemble white supremacy, optical allyship does the bare minimum

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Missoula Food Bank & Community Center is a private, non-profit organization that addresses hunger in Missoula County by offering emergency food assistance and child nutrition programs to all individuals and families who come to us in need. We have been carrying out this model of service since 1982 and take tremendous pride in the diverse network of support that keeps our customers fed, our food service programs effective, and our organization healthy.