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Explore New Sights and Sounds During Black History Month

Funkadelic album cover, Dhalgren book cover, Killer of Sheep film poster

Explore New Sights and Sounds During Black History Month

February is Black History Month! From February 1st-March 1st we take time to reflect on the vital legacy and contributions of the African-American community. At Rio Salado College we’re proud of our diverse staff and student body, and wish to honor their accomplishments and the spirit of Black History Month.

The Origins of BHM

The first Black History Month celebration nationwide took place in 1976. President Gerald Ford called the occasion an “opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.” Black History Month was far from the first attempt at celebrating the rich history of African-Americans—the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH) started a history week back in 1925. It was thanks to the efforts of African-American activists and scholars that spent decades organizing  commemorative days and weeks that led to the U.S. government finally recognizing their efforts by creating Black History Month.

Celebrating BHM with Rio Salado 

Our theme for 2022’s Black History Month celebration is The Essence of Leadership: Black History in the Making. On Thursday, Feb. 24, we’re hosting a webinar with Angola Ambassador Joaquim do Espirito Santo and Rio Salado Faculty Chair for Psychology, Philosophy and Religious Studies Dr. Wanda Tucker. You can register to attend the webinar here.

Rio Salado’s Black History Month initiatives are made possible by the President’s Office committee for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging to help foster a culture that values and honors everyone's unique qualities with respect and dignity.

Our sister schools in the Maricopa Community College District are also putting on BHM events and virtual screenings of documentaries and films. Check out the district’s BHM calendar for more information.

BHM Book Club

Our Rio Salado Library team has put together an informative guide to Black History Month, offering a great starting point to deepen your knowledge and awareness about the fascinating and complex lives of Black leaders & their communities. Check out the Library Resources section in the guide and you’ll find a top 40 list of essential fiction and nonfiction books written by African-American authors. You could start a year-long BHM Book Club with this list! 

Here’s a few “honorable mentions” that didn’t make the list:

  • Nova and Dhalgren by Samuel R. Delany: two classic works of science-fiction by one of the undisputed masters of the form. Especially recommended for LGBTQ readers.
  • They Can't Kill Us Until They Kill Us by Hanif Abdurraqib: riveting essays on music, culture, and politics by an award-winning poet.
  • A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James: winner of the 2015 Man Booker Prize, it takes an incident in Bob Marley's life in Jamaica and expands it into a riveting account of hard living in Kingston and New York.
  • Hunger by Roxane Gay: a moving memoir about weight, self-image, and on trying to navigate life in America as both a woman of color and someone wrestling with obesity.

Let’s Go to the Movies

Another great way to learn more about African-American culture is to explore the rich cinematic legacy of Black filmmakers. In addition to the documentaries and fiction films that are available to watch through our district’s BHM calendar and our Library Guide, here are a few essential films to add to your watchlists:

  • Killer of Sheep (dir. Charles Burnett, 1978): A highly influential independent film, this sublime work offers a slice-of-life portrait of Black Americans making their way in Watts.
  • Do The Right Thing (dir. Spike Lee, 1989): A community’s inner tensions explode on the hottest day of the year.
  • The Watermelon Woman (dir. Cheryl Dunye, 1996). A lesbian filmmaker investigates the legacy of old Hollywood actors who played stereotypical roles while also exploring her lovelife. 
  • The Inheritance (Ephraim Asli, 2021). A combination of fiction and documentary in which a group of young African-Americans try to get a commune going while also learning about the very real oppression Black activist groups have faced in the past.

Lend An Ear

Looking to add some new records to your routine? Check out some of these works by influential African-American artists. We’ve picked two records for each genre to represent a wide variety of sounds.


  • Liquid Swords by GZA

  • The Low End Theory by A Tribe Called Quest


  • Forever Changes by Love
  • For the Whole World to See by Death


  • Parade by Prince
  • Rhythm Nation by Janet Jackson


  • They Say I’m Different by Betty Davis
  • One Nation Under A Groove by Funkadelic


  • Out to Lunch! by Eric Dolphy
  • The Creator Has A Master Plan by Pharoah Sanders


  • Hot Buttered Soul by Isaac Hayes
  • What’s Going On by Marvin Gaye


  • Donuts by J. Dilla
  • Cosmogramma by Flying Lotus

Classical/New Age

  • Transmissions by Beverly Glenn-Copeland
  • Unjust Malaise by Julius Eastman


  • Stranger Fruit by Zeal & Ardor
  • Rock for Light by Bad Brains


  • The Definitive by Lead Belly
  • Nina Simone Sings the Blues by Nina Simone

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