February is Black History Month, and All That actress Aria Brooks decided to celebrate the occasion quite differently. She turned her Instagram into a platform where each day, she recognized an important African-American figure – both historical and those who are continuing to change the world today.
As the month comes to a close today, Aria spoke with me about why she decided to take on the social media project, and the one thing she’d like people to know about her. You can check out the entirety of her posts here, and also follow her on Twitter.
Brittany Frederick: Why did you decide to devote your Instagram to Black History Month in February?
Aria Brooks: Black History Month is important to me and all of my family, so I knew I wanted to do something. I think because Black History Month is the shortest month of the year, I really wanted to celebrate where we come from and our culture every single day of the month. My mom added her input; she liked the idea and it just went up from there. I’ve really liked it and really enjoyed learning even more than I knew before.
BF: What research went into the project? How did you decide who you were going to spotlight?
AB: I had a bunch of different categories, like famous African-American actors, singers, inventors, things like that. I looked them up and I wrote a bunch of them down that seemed really interesting to me. That not only did I want to learn about, but that I figured my fans wanted to learn about or that I wanted to teach my fans about.
I also found some things that weren’t specifically about a person; [they were] categories that relate to African Americans. For example, there’s a post about kings and queens and HBCUs [historically black colleges and universities]. [They’re] not a specific person, but they do pertain to our culture.
I wrote them all down in a note. I sent them to my mom and she was like, “Oh, why don’t you also do this person?” and she helped me do a lot of the research. It was a team effort and most of those were planned in advance last month. Some of them happened in the spur of the moment, like when Katherine Johnson unfortunately passed away, we did that one the day after.
BF: Were there particular stories or topics that stood out to you or surprised you throughout Black History Month?
AB: Actually, a lot of them. In schools and in textbooks, they teach you very basic information. For example, I’d heard of people like Madam CJ Walker and [that] she’s a famous black businesswoman/entrepreneur, but this month has been a lot of researching, looking up facts and things that they won for their accomplishment. I definitely learned a lot.
Madam CJ Walker, in particular. I learned a lot about HBCUs. Even though my mom and dad went to an HBCU, I definitely learned a lot about those as well. I learned about Ava DuVernay. She was one of my favorites as well. I also learned that we evolved from kings and queens. I knew that general idea, “Oh, kings and queens in Africa,” but I learned specifics about all these people and events.
BF: As the month ends, what knowledge or message are you hoping that your Instagram followers leave with?
AB: I hope that I educated them, and I hope they left knowing more about black culture. I also want to inspire young black girls. I want them to know that they’re not alone if they have a certain struggle and that they’re special. They’re beautiful. They’re special as anyone else because of the people we’ve come from and the people that we are.
BF: Would you do another monthly theme in the future? Any other months or events you’d want to post about?
AB: I don’t think we’ve gotten there yet, but I definitely do want to do a Black History Month thing again next year. Women’s History Month is in March, so I’m really excited about that. I definitely want to do a bunch of posts about that. Music In Our School Month is also in March. My whole family is full of musicians, so that’s going to be really fun. I know we have some crazy things that are going to happen in March on Instagram.
Another full month [project] is a lot, to try and research someone for every day. We didn’t get the idea at the top of January so we had to cram it all in, get all these facts and everything pretty quick. It was definitely a task. I’m glad I was able to learn and teach, but we might have to wait a couple months on the month thing.
BF: What comes next for Aria Brooks in the rest of 2020?
AB: Nothing is in place yet, but I am doing a lot of auditions. I have some big goals for myself. I’m planning on trying to release an album this year. I released two singles, “Truly Me” and “Time Off,” last year and this year I want to show that I’ve grown, that I’ve changed a little bit since then. It’s not set in stone yet, but I am definitely working on that.
BF: Where did the interest in music come from? Did it develop early due to your family’s musical background, or did it come along later?
AB: I’ve always been interested in music because my parents [are] both music educators. I grew up around them always teaching their students and it just rubbed off on me.
A few years ago, I would just write songs for fun, and I’d copy what I’d see all the big singers doing. I would sing a song that I think Ariana Grande would write. The last year or two, I started writing about how I felt because I’m getting a little older. I’m starting to change and I’m starting to feel certain emotions I didn’t feel before. I write based on that. I’ve recently started songwriting as my way of therapy and making myself feel better, but I’ve always been really into music.
BF: Is there anything else in particular you want people to know about you?
AB: I do think people have started to ask me more now, but I feel like when people start making a name for themselves or book jobs on Nickelodeon and things like that, they think it’s strictly business and they have to only ask questions like, “Tell me about this project.” I am a really chill person so talking about my favorite food and those things, I am down.
I’ve seen several times when fans will be like, “Hey she’s on All That.” They’re scared to come up to us, which I get. I get your mindset. But honestly, I’m down. Come approach me. Come talk to me. I want to have conversations with fans, with interviewers and people. Please ask me about my favorite food, my favorite colors and if I like stuff animals. Things like that, I don’t mind being asked a lot more.
BF: So what are some of your favorite things or people?
AB: I love Zendaya from the bottom of my heart. Who doesn’t? She’s my idol for acting, singing and dancing – everything. There’s a lot of African-American actors that I’ve looked up to over the years, like Marsai Martin and Skai Jackson.
I love Will Smith. He’s great. A singer that I really look up to is Melanie Martinez. I love her as lyricist because she writes really great lyrics that are relatable and they’re a lot deeper than they may seem. She’s a great singer. I think my number one style icon is Zendaya. My favorite TV show is This Is Us.
Article content is (c)2020 Brittany Frederick and may not be excerpted or reproduced without express written permission by the author. Follow me on Twitter at @BFTVTwtr.