During Black History Month, people celebrate a number of well-known black Americans and their significant achievements. Also known as African American History Month in the U.S., it’s observed throughout all of February in schools and workplaces, as well as in the media. In addition to the United States, the governments of Canada, the United Kingdom, Ireland, and the Netherlands recognize Black History Month (although the latter three counties mark the occasion in October instead).
Let’s learn more about some of the most important black American historical and contemporary figures, particularly those in the health and wellness spheres. I’ll also tell you a little more about intellectual and financial wellness and how they relate to this important month of celebration.
Black History Month: People We Admire
When it comes to honoring the great achievements of Black Americans, it’s hard to know where to begin. You might start with Barack Obama, the forty-fourth President of the U.S. and the first Black American to hold the office, and Kamala Harris, the first Black and first woman Vice President, sworn in on January 20. You also could look to influential political activists like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, and Absalom Jones, among many others.
There are too many well-known figures in the arts and entertainment to name, but Morgan Freeman, Spike Lee, Kerry Washington, Beyonce Knowles-Carter, and the late Chadwick Boseman come to mind. The same is true for world-class athletes, among them Jackie Robinson, Michael Jordan, Serena and Venus Williams, Muhammed Ali, Lebron James, and the late Kobe Bryant. Renowned writers include Toni Morrison, Zora Neale Hurston, Maya Angelou, James Baldwin, and Langston Hughes.
I could name both historical and contemporary figures all day, and I still wouldn’t cover all the Black Americans who deserve recognition this month. To learn more, you can check out the Library of Congress’s page on African American History Month or the History Channel’s programming on Black History Month to start.
African-American Historical and Modern Figures in Wellness
Who I’d love to celebrate here are the Black Americans who have made important contributions to medicine, health, and wellness. As in other fields, there truly are too many to name, so I’ve chosen a handful of historical and contemporary figures whose work helps us to live our best lives.
Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett
Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett deserves a round of applause for her research on Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine, which is currently available to higher-risk members of the population. Her work on the front lines is directly responsible for the innovation that researchers believe will put an end to the COVID-19 pandemic. Thank you, Dr. Corbett!
Dr. Joycelyn Elders
Pediatrician Dr. Joycelyn Elders was the first Black American to serve as Surgeon General of the United States, which she did from 1993–1994 during Bill Clinton’s presidency. Additionally, she was the first person in the state of Arkansas to become board certified in pediatric endocrinology.
Dr. James McCune Smith
Dr. James McCune Smith was the first Black American to earn an MD and the first to run a pharmacy. A fervent abolitionist, he worked closely with Frederick Douglass to establish the National Council of Colored People.
Dr. Francis Cecil Sumner
Known as the “Father of Black Psychology,” Dr. Francis Cecil Sumner was the first African American to receive a PhD. in psychology. He helped to found the psychology department at the prestigious Howard University, which he chaired from 1928–1954.
As First Lady of the United States from 2009–2017, Michelle Obama inspired millions of Americans with her passion for healthy eating and physical fitness (and those amazing biceps!). She planted the first vegetable garden in the White House since Eleanor Roosevelt and founded the Let’s Move! campaign to promote healthy lifestyles for children.
This actress and wellness influencer is known as “America’s Mom.” Tabitha Brown was easily the best thing to come out of 2020, with her tasty and creative plant-based recipes, warm demeanor, and amazing sense of humor. With her non-judgmental approach to vegan cooking and beautiful smile, it’s easy to see why she’s so well-loved. “Have a good day, and if you can’t, don’t go messing up nobody else’s!”
Dr. Stephanie Akoumany
Dr. Stephanie Akoumany is the founder and CEO of Bloom, a leadership, wellness, and community-building media and education company. Her focus is on self-care and self-discovery, diversity, equity, and inclusion. She hosts the Blooming is a Habit podcast, helping young people and adults to follow their dreams and reach their full potential.
Scooter Taylor: Intellectual and Financial Wellness
When you think about wellness, you may tend to focus on issues like nutrition, physical fitness, and mental and emotional health. Those are all important parts of living well, of course, but there’s more to reaching your full potential. Two other important dimensions of overall health and happiness are your intellectual wellness and your financial wellness. Intellectual wellness means making sure your grey matter gets as much of a workout as the rest of your body. Exercise your brain by reading, journaling, learning to play an instrument, or taking a college course. Likewise, financial wellness means taking good care of your bank account and making smart decisions for your financial future.
How does this relate to Black History Month? Scooter Taylor, a young Black innovator and entrepreneur is a success in both intellectual and financial wellness, as well as emotional intelligence in leadership. A Memphis native and 2015 graduate of Morehouse College, he’s the founder of two major brands. First, WaterWars Atlanta is a nonprofit dedicated to ending the world’s water crisis. And LookLive isan app that lets men browse and shop for the styles their favorite celebrities and influencers are wearing. Last year, not long after social distancing began, Scooter founded QuarantineCon, a new digital community designed to virtually connect the world’s “movers and shakers” while group meetings are postponed. QuarantineCon hosts professional conferences, career fairs, informational videos, and so much more. It hosts guest speakers in collaboration with We Are HBCUs, amplifying the voices of accomplished graduates of Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
Scooter is a shining example of a young and promising Black American who helps bolster society’s intellectual and financial wellness via his innovative new platform. In the face of global adversity, he’s come up with something new and valuable. Keep an eye on his work going forward—he just may be making history as we speak.