Welp, it’s official! Black History Month is finally here, and I for one couldn’t be happier. Though I’m Black 24/7/365 and don’t ever need a set date to bask in that glorious fact—there’s something about the first day of February that makes me wanna pick out my fro, put salt (NEVER sugar) on my grits, moisturize my elbows and ankles, fry some fish, make a pot of spaghetti and blast Marvin Gaye to the high heavens. (Not that I don’t do all of that on a regular degular Tuesday, but you get the point.)
And if you’re anything like me and like to be especially intentional about listening to the various, soulful sounds of Blackness during this celebratory albeit short month (sucks teeth), Apple Music, ASCAP, Spotify and TikTok may have exactly what you’re looking for. The musical organizations and platforms have all revealed their plans to commemorate Black History Month this year and by the looks of things—there’s enough goodness to keep you Electric Slidin’ all the way to the 28th. Keep reading to find out more.
This year, Apple Music is celebrating Black History Month with a “highly curated editorial music experience across Apple Music, Apple Music radio and Apple Music TV.” Per a press release sent to The Root, the experience will encompass curated playlists, essays, original short films, music videos and more from both prominent and up-and coming Black influencers, musicians, authors, and directors including Ava DuVernay, Erykah Badu, Common, John Legend, Monica and Dame Pat McGrath. Apple Music TV will also host four 24-hour music video takeovers to highlight influential and iconic artists including Janet Jackson, H.E.R., Pharrell Williams and Beyoncé and others.
Apple Music Radio will also air brand new shows across Apple Music 1, Apple Music Country, and Apple Music Hits that will feature interviews with some of today’s hottest artists, in addition to curated roundtables, special music mixes, and station takeover. Apple Music’s central theme this year will also revolve around the Black Family. “A true diaspora of cultures and blood lines, the ‘Black Family’ can be made up of relatives near and far, friends, community members, and other chosen loved ones and is not defined by genealogy. Its bond is created and reinforced through collective experiences, love, and culture.” In that vein, Apple Music will highlight and explore different themes and roles within the Black Family through a series of short films and original essays, starting with the Matriarch:
Throughout the month, Apple Music will also premiere a series of original shorts that celebrate the impact of the “Black Family” through the lens of these different creative themes, beginning today with “Matriarchs.” Shot by four incredible up-and-coming Black directors alongside Clio- award winning creative director Rohan Blair-Mangat, these films represent powerful story-telling combined with a distinctive cinematic sensibility:
Matriarchs directed by India Sleem illustrates and explores the role and notions of the matriarch through time.
Chosen Family directed by Jean Estene explores the importance of relationships, acceptance and identity within the LGBTQ community as it continues to evoke change and influence culture around the world and push forward narratives of representation, identity and diversity
Future Generations directed by Christina Nwabugo honors the past by looking to the future through the lens of youth movements and the powerful young voices that are impacting the culture
Nourishment and Resilience directed by Sean Frank elevates black voices discussing mental health issues and encouraging healthy living and self care for the mind, body and spirit.
Original essays expounding on these themes and companion playlists will come from author of The Motherlode: 100+ Women Who Made Hip Hop Clover Hope (also former Culture Editor of our sister site Jezebel), How We Fight For Our Lives author Saeed Jones, Co-Executive Director of Partners for Dignity & Rights Kenyon Farrow (co-executive director of Partners for Dignity & Rights, a national organization that works to guarantee universal rights for people across the United States), and renowned human rights lawyer and writer Derecka Purnell.
The American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers is rolling out their Black History Month campaign celebration by paying homage to an impressive roster of influential Black artists, composers, and songwriters who’ve made and left a mark through their musical contributions. The monthlong feature will consist of in-depth editorials, playlists, and social media content spotlighting different groups of musical taste and changemakers across all musical eras and genres.
“ASCAP is passionate about recognizing the contributions of Black songwriters and composers who have created music that has made an impact on our culture and the world,” said ASCAP Senior Vice President of Membership Nicole George-Middleton in a statement sent to The Root. “During this month especially, it is our mission to shine the spotlight on ASCAP member pioneers, innovators and icons who have changed history, shaped music as we know it and given us the songs we love so much.
Broken into four weeks, the campaign will celebrate Black pioneers in music, Black musicians and important Black moments in ASCAP history, iconic ASCAP members in Black History, and ASCAP members making history today. Notable icons to be celebrated include Quincy Jones, Charley Pride, Duke Ellington, Bob Marley, Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five and Martin Luther King Jr.
In addition to all of that, ASCAP will also be celebrating its 107th anniversary by paying tribute to “Lift Every Voice and Sing” composer James Weldon Johnson, one of its founding members as well as Black influence upon the organization’s history, like the first ASCAP Rhythm & Soul Music Awards.
Musical streaming giant Spotify will unveil a series of new and revamped music and podcast playlists in a weekly rotation throughout the month of February with new cover art from Black photographers in an effort to showcase a spectrum of Black talent, spanning across both musical and visual art. According to a press release sent to The Root, photographers to be featured include: Shawn Theodore, Adrienne Waheed, Doug Segars, Adrian Octavious Walker, Black Archives, Andre Wagner, and Erica Génécé. They’ll provide artwork for the Black History Salute, Black Love Mixtape and Sound Stories: Black Music,Power to the People, Soul Coffee, The Cook(in), Spread the Gospel and Our Stories, Our Heroes playlists respectively.
In addition to the new artwork, Spotify will also unveil new Playlists Takeovers, which will be guest curated by some of today’s influential Black celebrities, creatives and more. Some of those guest curators include American Jazz artist Keyon Harrold Sr. and his son Keyon Harrold Jr in partnership with Color of Change, 2Chainz, up-and-coming artist Amaarae, Keke Palmer, Lucky Daye and Ari Lennox. The platform will also debut new and refreshed hip-hop playlists and podcasts with key Black creators and culture shakers including:
New Joints: Simply put, these are the newest rap songs our editors think fans should know.
Door Knockers: A playlist celebrating trailblazing women in hip-hop history.
Trophy Room: This mood-based playlist is for anyone who’s feeling celebratory.
City To City: This playlist features songs from the Drill scenes of New York, London, and Chicago.
Three Spotify playlists will be displaying their new looks and sounds today:
Westside Story: Formerly of the moniker “Cali Fire,” this playlist has expanded its scope beyond California to cover the entirety of the West Coast.
No Cap: Previously called “The Realest Down South,” this mix features Southern artists, old and new.
Out The Mud: “Off The Strength” fans can now find street artists on this refreshed playlist.
Black Girl Songbook: In a new Music + Talk show, join Danyel Smith as she celebrates and uplifts the talents of Black Women in the music industry. Listen as she shares music and discusses the stories of Black songwriters, producers, executives and more, celebrating the musical creativity and genius of Black women first. Trailer available now, full series launches on February 4.
Higher Learning with Van Lathan and Rachel Lindsay: On this podcast, Van Lathan and Rachel Lindsaydissect the biggest topics in Black culture, politics, and sports. This month there will be four, special Wednesday episodes diving into the most important and timely conversations, each one highlighting different spectrums of Black culture.
The Bakari Sellers Podcast: The podcast that tackles the most pressing current events from the world of politics, including the 2020 election, the movement for racial equality in the US, and much more. The show will also highlight key moments in Black History events through conversations and interviews with Charles Blow, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, and Nnamdi Asomugha.
The Get Up: The morning show that brings you all the latest news, music and entertainment will be spotlighting the special individuals who are making history now from Eugene Goodman and Letitia James to Ryan Coogler and Joy Reid who will be remembered for all their great contributions to Black culture.
This Black History Month, TikTok will be celebrating the legacy of Black Excellence in a new campaign hashtagged #MakeBlackHistory in an effort to “respect and recognize the past, present, and future of the Black experience.” Per a press release, all month long the video-sharing social platform will be highlighting individuals who are making a difference through TikTok LIVE programming that celebrates Black creators and artists including Taylor Cassidy, Kelly Rowland, The Shade Room, and more. They’ll also be announcing their inaugural Black TikTok Trailblazers list for leaders and pioneers from the #BlackTikTok community who use their platform both on and off the social site to entertain, educate, inspire and advocate on behalf of their community.
In addition to that, TikTok will also roll out a new schedule of programming in collaboration with The Shade Room dedicated to different Black Trailblazers each week and various Black creators that showcase the different expressions of Blackness. And to keep things cohesive, TikTok has also unveiled new information stickers so that creators can pay homage to not just Black History, but Black creatives, Black pride, and Black magic.
Lastly, TikTok has announced they’ll be featuring special playlists, banners, and featured songs exclusively from Black artists on TikTok LIVE music series on the Sounds page. Additionally, they’ll build upon their Support Black Businesses initiative by launching a new Black Business Showcase within the app to further promote Black-owned businesses, and donate $500,000 to non-profit organizations that fight for racial equality and justice and will provide programs and resources to local Black communities. These organizations include Alvin Ailey Foundation, Black AIDS Institute, Thurgood Marshall College Fund, Operation Hope, Trans Women of Color Collective, CEE Centre for Young Black Professionals, and more.