9 Movies for Black History Month
Here in North America, we dedicate the month of February to celebrating Black History.
Like the United States, Canada celebrates Black History Month during February. This month was chosen because of the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. The roots of Black History Month began in the early 20th century, but it was in the 1970s when the observance picked up momentum. In Canada, it was in the mid-1990s when the month was officially recognized.
Black History Month has its critics. There are some who say black history is history; it shouldn’t be relegated to one month. Even so, it’s good to remember the contributions of people who often get overlooked in the history books. Not everyone can be remembered in one history text or class. In honor of Black History Month, here are some movies you should see:
Classic Movies About Black History
- “Gone With the Wind” (1939)Margaret Mitchell’s epic book that was made into a movie has its critics. However, what’s interesting to note is that Hattie McDonnell, the actress who played Mammy, was the first black person to receive an Oscar. The producer had to call in a special favor to get permission for McDaniel to be allowed into the no-blacks Ambassador Hotel to accept the prize.
- “Lilies of the Field” (1964)Sidney Poitier became the first black man to receive an Oscar, nearly 25 years following McDaniel’s win. This 1964 classic might seem tame compared to today’s blockbusters, but it’s a great lesson in humility and faith in accomplishing goals.
- “In the Heat of the Night” (1967)Poitier was a big name in Hollywood, and in 1967, he starred as a detective from the North who had to help a racist cop in the South track down a murderer. Through the course of the film, the two men begin to develop mutual understanding. The film represents the changing social-political climate actually occurring throughout the United States.
- “The Color Purple” (1985)This movie, directed by Steven Spielberg, was a highly acclaimed film of its time. It was Whoopi Goldberg’s breakout role, but more importantly, it focused on the plight of the African-American woman. See it in film, read the book or attend the theater version.
More Recent Movies About black History
- “Boyz N the Hood” (1991)John Singleton kicked off a decade that gave us many movies about black men just trying to survive in their own urban city under the veil of violence and discrimination. He was the first and youngest African-American to be nominated for Best Director.
- “Malcolm X” (1992)This film was placed on the National Film Registry because of its historic significance. Denzel Washington lost the Academy Award for Best Actor that year, but he still took many other awards for his role. The film is highly acclaimed and well received, and it’s a must-see for everyone to understand this man who changed history.
- “Hidden Figures” (2016)Released last year, this movie recognizes the contribution of black women to the United States’ space program. It’s based on the true story of three Virginia women who changed history by believing they could.
- “Ray” (2004)Ray Charles is one of the most acclaimed musicians in the world, but he came from very humble beginnings. At the age of seven, Charles went completely blind. Still, he overcame his disability and his heritage to become one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century. This film is a story of his perseverance during a difficult time in history.
There are many other movies that give us glimpses into the history of African-Americans. Spike Lee has made many movies that did not fit on this list. Watch some of these great flicks during Black History Month.
Celebrate Recovery on September 30
In order to celebrate recovery, we need to understand that it is not an easy road.
One of the most debilitating diseases in the world is addiction. It’s estimated that about 4.5 million Canadians suffer from drug addiction, and this figure doesn’t include family members affected by addiction. Fortunately, there is treatment available, but addiction is not curable. Those who have conquered their addiction are considered recovered, not cured. It’s important to realize that many people go on to live productive and healthy lives once they stop using the addictive substance. Since 2012, there’s been a push to celebrate recovery from addictions.
In the United States, September is designated Recovery Month, but here in Canada, we just have Recovery Day. Last year, about 30 cities held special events, and this year, even more will. Recovery Day began with a nine-minute video by filmmaker Greg Williams that had the goal of breaking down the stigma of addiction and focusing on solutions to addiction. The movement began in Vancouver but has trickled across the country to help others.
Myths About Addiction and Treatment
Many times, addicts are seen as bad people making bad decisions, but drug and alcohol addiction is much more complex than we realize. There’s no “one size fits all” to cure addiction. Often, addictions come hand-in-hand with other mental health problems, such as anxiety or depression, and all of the health problems within a person have to be dealt with to find long-term recovery. Here are a few other myths associated with treatment and addiction:
- Addiction is a character flaw.
Addiction is actually a brain disease.
- People can just stop using drugs if they want to.
Drug and alcohol addiction actually changes the brain, which leads to a compulsion to use the substance. Teens become addicted much more quickly than adults because their brains are not fully developed.
- You can’t force a person into treatment for it to be successful.
Many people go into treatment to keep a job or because the legal system ordered them into it.
- Treatment should be a one-shot deal.
Studies show that treatment reduces many of the risky behaviors associated with addiction and it reduces the substance use, but many addicts need continuous treatment to overcome drug and alcohol use. There are some who can quit cold turkey and never go back to using the substance again, but many others need a wide array of services to keep them on the road to recovery. Treatment needs to be individually tailored to address each person’s specific needs.
- After treatment, if a person continues to abuse drugs or alcohol, it’s a hopeless situation.
Relapse into substance abuse is not failure. Addiction is a chronic disorder that makes a person more vulnerable when dealing with work and family problems. Stress can trigger a relapse, especially in the first few months following a release from a treatment program. Don’t give up on an addict, because recovery is a long process that isn’t easy.
A Day to Celebrate Recovery Gives Hope
When people come together to share their recovery stories, it’s proof that treatment does work. Recovery is possible. The awareness Recovery Day brings challenges the societal stigma of addiction, and it builds community to give hope to others who are dealing with this difficult problem.
Recoverydaycanada.com has information about events in different cities. Vancouver is hosting a street festival. Montreal hosted an event at Girouard Park on September 17.
If you miss out on the event in your community, make plans to celebrate with your friends who are in recovery to honor their commitment to their health. Find inspiration and support in what they’re doing to maintain sobriety. Give hope to others who may have friends and family dealing with addiction. Let’s focus on solutions and finding help instead of shaming addicts.