Growing up in a small, urban city in the southside of Chicago, Black History Month was a pretty exciting time! I went to a Black Church of Christ about five minutes away from my home, and it was here that I learned most of my lessons about Black history.
Each year we would celebrate with elaborate plays, musicals, monologues, and an enormous soul food dinner. It was my absolute favorite time of the year, but I do remember walking the halls of my elementary and high school wondering why they hadn’t joined the bandwagon? Each year, we geared up for Black History Month at church starting on February 1, yet the schools I attended were silent. The schools didn’t have any activities planned, no additions to the curriculum — not one thing! It was business as usual, and as a Black student in a predominantly White space, it let me know quickly that my history, my story was not valued.
As a fairly new mom and educator, it’s always been my goal to make sure that not one more Black child would feel invaluable in my presence, so I made it my business to create Black History programs at each of the schools I worked in. It was so important to me to make sure that my students didn’t feel the way I felt.
So, moms and dads: Here is where you come in. Do you know what your child’s school is planning for Black History? It’s a question you must ask. You can’t assume anything is being taught. Find out what programming is taking place, and if nothing has been planned or you feel as if the programming is insufficient, ask the principal if you can create something for the students.
We are in the middle of a pandemic, so this year will have to be planned differently. But within this past year, we have become remarkably creative virtually celebrating. Here are some examples of virtual and in-person experiences you could share with your child’s campus.
- Interview Black professionals and ask about his or her success stories. Make a video compilation to show students during announcements or homeroom time.
- Ask the choir teacher, if your child’s school has a choral program, if he or she is able to teach students the Black National Anthem, record it, and showcase the video to students.
- Organize a Black art contest. Have students create art pieces and enter them in for a prize.
- Order soul food catered by a Black-owned business for school staff.
- Create a list of Black-owned businesses in your area and share it with the staff, students, and parents for them to support.
- Ask teachers to record readings of short stories by African-Americans and show the videos to the students during story time.
- Ask the librarian to create a Black History section in the library to highlight Black authors.
- Find your favorite Black film appropriate for your child’s age group and have a movie night (socially distant, of course).
These are just a few ideas to highlight the remarkable achievements of African Americans.
How do you and your school community plans to celebrate this year? Comment below!