From Black History to Afrofuturism: Collaborating for Justice to Honor African American Older Adults

Black History Month is a time to celebrate the accomplishments of African Americans, to honor the legacies of ancestral legends, living trailblazers, and unsung heroes, and to learn more about the depth and diversity of the Black experience in the United States. The roots of Black History Month began in 1915, when prominent historian and scholar, Carter G. Woodson, and educator, minister, and philanthropist, Jesse E. Moorland, founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History. The organization’s purpose was dedicated to researching and promoting the achievements and contributions of African Americans that were often overlooked, ignored, and minimized in history books and textbooks. [i] In February 1926, the organization celebrated the first Negro History Week, choosing the second week of February to coincide with the birthdays of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln. In the 1960s, due in part to the civil rights movement, Negro History Week grew into Black History Month at many colleges and universities. 50 years after its inception in 1976, President Gerald Ford officially recognized Black History Month and called upon Americans to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.” [ii]

Today, we are at a time in which Black History Month couldn’t be more important. Every day, we hear of more policies and campaigns to erase Black history through book bans, restrictions in teaching about slavery and white supremacy, and leaders publicly denying the existence of systemic racism. It is critical that those messages and efforts are countered by amplifying Black voices and experiences, honoring Black history, and by advocating for equity for the Black community. Celebrating Black History Month is an act of restoration, giving credit and honor to the work and contributions of Black Americans with pride.

At the National Clearinghouse on Abuse in Later Life (NCALL), we are focused on ensuring that older adults age with safety and dignity, and we are committed to advancing equity and justice for African Americans and the most vulnerable populations of older adults. In fact, we are working to empower mainstream service providers that serve older adults, with an increased understanding of providing culturally-competent care to African American survivors, and to equip them with strategies to equitably engage with culturally-specific organizations that serve the Black community. In 2020, NCALL in collaboration with the National Resource Center on Reaching Victims, published the Increasing Access to Healing Services and Just Outcomes for Older African American Crime Survivors toolkit, which provides key insights and information on service provision for older African American adults. Through interviews, videos, reflection questions, and more, service providers learn how interlocking systems of oppression compound to create more difficulties and barriers for older African Americans, while simultaneously learning about the importance of culturally-competent, trauma-informed care. In the fall of 2023, NCALL and the Asha Project released the Collaborating for Justice for Older African Americans Guide, which serves as a strategic roadmap for mainstream domestic violence and sexual assault agencies, and community coordination teams, like taskforces, coordinated community response (CCR) teams, Multidisciplinary Teams (MDTs), elder justice teams and more, to cultivate equitable partnerships and collaborations with culturally-specific organizations that serve African American communities. The Collaborating for Justice Guide includes a report with key findings and insights gathered from leaders of culturally-specific and mainstream organizations, a conversation guide for agencies and teams to internally discuss their outreach and engagement with the African American community, and a community forum toolkit to create a space for meaningful discussion on this topic within the local area.

In an effort to increase awareness, understanding, and utilization of the Collaborating for Justice Guide, NCALL is hosting a 3-part webinar series beginning next month on March 19th, March 26th, and April 16th. The webinars will provide in-depth discussions about the impact of historical and present-day racism, the need and purpose for culturally-specific programs, the guiding principles of equitable engagement, and the opportunity to hear directly from culturally-specific program leaders. Mainstream organizations can use the Collaborating for Justice Guide, to address some of the common struggles they face when it comes to equitable engagement. By taking the steps to engage in equitable collaboration, meaningful partnerships inspired by the needs of African American older adult survivors will lead to services that intentionally address intersectionality, resulting in care that affirms and helps to restore their lives. It is the aim of these webinars to allow conversation, discussion, and critical questions and answers needed to move engagement forward, because these toolkits should not live on a shelf or be held only as a digital bookmark.

As Black History Month draws to a close, I hope you will continue to recognize the legacy of African Americans all year long, and consider the concept of Afrofuturism as a source of inspiration for the important work of improving safety and collaborating for justice. “Afrofuturism expresses notions of Black identity, agency, and freedom through art, creative works, and activism that envision liberated futures for Black life.”[iii] It means imagining and working to create freedom for African Americans and all people a part of the African Diaspora throughout the world. Through initiatives like Collaborating for Justice, NCALL is encouraging service providers and advocates to ultimately bring the concept of Afrofuturism into reality. Together, as service providers from the local community to the national level, we can create the space, tools, strategies, and information needed to be an effective solution that ultimately improves the livelihood of the older adult population of African Americans. It is through the active work of this magnitude, that we are embodying the true purpose of Black History Month – honoring Black Americans with the safety, dignity, and respect they deserve.

Written by Victoria Ferguson-Young, M.Div., NCALL Victim Services Coordinator

[i] NAACP. (n.d.) Carter G. Woodson.

[ii] Editors. (2024, January 29). Black History Month.

[iii] National Museum of African American History & Culture. (n.d) Afrofuturism: A History of Black Futures.


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