Black History Month 2023: An Opportunity to Educate, Celebrate, and Act

By Willette Walker,
Chief Human Capital Officer
Thank You, Direct Support Professionals Sign

Welcome to Black History Month (BHM)! I’m delighted to contribute to this edition of Mainstay Unlocked, and to offer my perspective and hopes for not only Black History Month, but for learning, engaging, and taking action throughout the year.

Why do we celebrate Black History Month?
BHM was started by as Negro History Week in 1926. The week was first celebrated in February to honor the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. The week was initiated by Harvard-trained historian, author, and journalist Carter G. Woodson to celebrate and raise awareness to the contributions of Black Americans.

Willette Walker
Willette Walker,
Chief Human Capital Officer
Since its inception, interest grew: Black history clubs came into existence, teachers demanded materials, and scholars and philanthropists alike endorsed the effort. By the time of Woodson’s death in 1950, Negro History Week was a staple in African American life. The period of recognition was expanded to a month during the nation’s bicentennial in 1976 when President Gerald R. Ford first proclaimed February as Black History Month.

While I celebrate the accomplishments and contributions of Black Americans 365 days per year, in the month of February, I take the time to deliberately and intentionally recognize and celebrate Black stories, perspectives, and contributions. And I encourage you to do the same.

This month I hope you will join me as we:


To me, it is so important that we honor unsung heroes by learning more about the contributions of ordinary citizens who made an extraordinary impact. Throughout BHM, Mainstay will share with you – our community – stories of contributions by Black Americans. (Be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn to make sure you see these messages!) Some you will have heard of; others will be new to you. Some are those who have made contributions in the field of disability. My hope is that these stories of Black Americans will inform you of their amazing contributions and help all of us to build bridges between communities. Because even though tremendous progress has been made, there is more work to be done.


Reading a book (nonfiction or fiction) by Black authors can be an impactful way to celebrate BHM. While there are a multitude of books from which you could select, here is a list of offerings for consideration.


  • The Street by Ann Petry
  • Nightcrawling by Leila Mottley
  • Recitatif by Toni Morrison
  • Kindred by Octavia Butler


  • Finding Me by Viola Davis
  • So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
  • Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments by Saidiya Hartman
  • The Fire This Time by Jesmyn Ward
  • Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudine Rankine
  • I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

I would love the opportunity to join you in a book club meeting to discuss a book you’ve read during Black History Month. I invite the Mainstay community to join me virtually on Tuesday, February 21, 2023, from noon – 1 pm via Zoom. Click here to register.


There are numerous ways to support BHM this month including:

Support a Nonprofit
Volunteering at, and/or donating to, a nonprofit whose mission is to uplift and better the lives of Black people is an excellent way to actively engage in celebrating BHM. The NAACP Pittsburgh, Urban League – Greater Pittsburgh and Fund for Advancement of Minorities through Education are good places to start.

Frequent Black-Owned Businesses
Supporting Black-Owned businesses is an excellent activity in February, and the 11 other months of the year. As the Visit Pittsburgh website notes: “Explore an important part of Pittsburgh’s culture through its Black-owned business. From restaurants and bars, to arts and culture, you won’t want to miss these local favorites.” Check out the list here: Black-Owned Businesses in Pittsburgh

Attend Black History Month Events
There are a host of events and activities throughout the month to celebrate BHM. Some resources to find out what’s happening include:

Visit Pittsburgh: Honor Black History Month in Pittsburgh

Visit Pittsburgh Media Release re. BHM 2023

Roundup of Black History Month events

I look forward to seeing you in and around the ‘Burgh during Black History Month!