From soul food to Black unsung heroes, these Germantown podcasters will be talking about the less common aspects of Black History Month.
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Published February 8, 2022
When people think of Black History Month, Magdalia Proft-Maikowski, a woman of color, said there is a lot that people don't realize about the month.
"It is a unique opportunity to celebrate culture and traditions and really embracing on who we are. It is a time to take a step back and look at the (Black) culture and beauty," said Proft-Maikowski, who is president of the Germantown Community Coalition and a parent of students in the Germantown School District.
She said it is not necessarily about talking about inequality but enjoying the beauty of Black history and culture.
In honor of Black History Month, the Germantown Community Coalition has launched a three-part podcast series. The podcasts are scheduled to be recorded on Feb. 8, 15 and 22, after which they are slated to be posted on the coalition's website for open listening.
The nonprofit coalition started in 2021 with the mission of "working to build a welcoming community whose people are empowered to promote kindness, celebrate diversity, advocate for equity, and lead through growth-minded development."
Since September, this group has posted Community Talks podcasts with the goal to host "a community conversation featuring diverse voices and perspectives on topics of interest to the greater Germantown area," according to its website.
Black History Month podcast hosts Proft-Maikowski and Kim Grant — a Black parent whose son is a senior football player at Germantown — will address topics including food, culture, unsung heroes and rich Black history.
They will also address four things they think people might not know when they think about Black History Month.
Soul food dinners are more than food
When people think of soul food dinners, they often think of the food: collard greens, smothered chicken, peach cobbler or fried chicken.
But Grant said they are so much more.
"It is a way to preserve family history," said Grant. "It is a tradition." She remembers going to church with her family as a child and feasting on a big dinner afterward at which her grandmother would tell stories of her family history.
"It is about fellowship," she said. "The whole meaning was that African Americans could not afford to waste food. Everything they had on the farm, they worked for. That was the beginning of it ... creative ways of using leftover food and to create dishes."
Telling stories is a big part of it, she said.
"Those are stories that are passed down," she said. Grant said she keeps the tradition alive by following that example from her childhood: hosting soul food dinners after church on Sunday where she passes on stories from her grandmother and mother. She hopes her children will also share stories.
Grant said that many people aren't aware of people in Black history who affected society. Black History Month is an opportunity to do remedy that lack of knowledge. It's important to recognize that African Americans are more than just athletes. "You don't want to take away from that, but most power inventions began with African Americans," she said.
Many inventors were Black, but people don't know much about them, she said.
One example is Lewis Latimer, an inventor and draftsman best known for his contributions to the patenting of the light bulb and the telephone. "He was an electrical pioneer, but you don't hear that much about him," Grant said, adding that others often take credit for work done by Black people.
Many do not know the complete story of Black history
Grant said that it is important for history to be taught correctly and in depth.
"It is not just about slavery and oppression," said Grant. "It is important to preserve and to teach it correctly. We do the watered-down version."
She acknowledged that in schools, the focus is on big names in Black history, but many contributions are ignored.
"Most people who graduate from a typical U.S. public school education are not exposed to a robust picture of Black history. We often learn that slavery happened and there was the civil rights movement but not much beyond that," said Melissa Garves, a Germantown parent and board member for the Germantown Community Coalition.
Why is Black History Month in February?
February was primarily chosen for Black History Month because the second week of that month coincides with the birthdays of both Abraham Lincoln, who was influential in the freeing of slaves, and Frederick Douglass, a former slave who fought in the abolitionist movement.
But Garves said many people would not know that. The podcast will delve into the reasons why February was designated as Black History Month, as well as how people can celebrate.
The first episode on Black History Month will address when and why Black History Month was established; why it is important to preserve African American history; Black health and wellness in the midst of a pandemic; how people can celebrate Black History Month and how Black History Month can be incorporated into organizations’ existing diversity, equity and inclusion programs.
In part two, the topics scheduled are the history of soul food and its ties to slavery; soul food used as a basis for racism; modern-day food deserts contributing to the problem of Black health disparities and how Black leaders in health and wellness are working to encourage healthy choices in Black communities.
Part three will cover names to know; celebrating achievements by African Americans and recognizing their central role in U.S. history; examining why most Americans are familiar with only a few Black historical figures, discussing ways to improve how Black history is taught and how adults can take ownership of their lifelong learning of Black history and issues.
To listen to the podcast, visit www.germantowncommunitycoalition.org.