Black History Month: Tribute to a Special Person
Black History Month presents an opportunity to honor the many contributions of African-Americans, to reflect on and deepen our understanding of our nation’s complicated history, and to recognize the persistent struggle for equality in the United States.
The Players’ Journal invites writers to contribute pieces that celebrate African-American leaders (historic and contemporary), spark conversation, and further our understanding and appreciation for the experiences of all people in our country. Tributes may honor national or local leaders such as a teacher, family member, coach, pastor, or friend.
This writing exercise allows writers to honor someone who inspires you as well as a strategy to guide the development of your tribute.
Your readers want to know why this person is being honored. A tribute is almost always attached to an occasion (or platform) that triggers the tribute, so think of what the occasion would be—in other words, why (Black History Month), and where or for whom (English class, college application, MLB.com) are you delivering this tribute? This decision will dictate the type of information you include in your message and the audience expectations you need to fulfill. In some cases the person receiving the tribute will be present at the occasion, so keep that in mind.
- Choose the person and imagine the occasion or purpose. Choose someone you would like to honor and then an occasion, or platform, where they will be honored. Remember, this is not just an essay or speech about a famous person, but someone you are honoring!
- Consider the audience. Knowing, or fully researching, the person with the occasion or platform in mind will help you determine the needs, attitudes, and knowledge of your audience. It will also help you choose the most effective tone and content. You will also want to think about traits of your audience in order to imagine what questions (or responses on social media) the audience may bring to the occasion:
- Who is this person?
- Why are they being honored?
- What makes them so special to you as the writer?
- Brainstorm material. Think of a tribute as a kind of argument in which you are offering a claim (this person is special and deserves recognition) and supplying supporting evidence and illustrations to support that claim. Brainstorm material that will be compelling and appropriate.
- Draft. Remember this would be delivered as a speech, so make your tone conversational.
- Try out your tribute. Tributes are best appreciated when read aloud. Find some willing listeners who are not the person being honored and see how they respond.
- Revise, edit, and polish. Time permitting, make this as good as you can and think how great you will feel to have this ready to go if you ever have the need.
This may feel uncomfortable, and you never need to show it to anyone, but imagine you were to write a tribute to yourself. What would you want to include? What do you hope someone else would say about you if and when the occasion for you to be honored arose? Take a few minutes to think about this now that your tribute to another is written.