First and foremost, Happy Black History Month!
This year marks the 45th anniversary of this month’s national recognition. But as the mom of four beautiful Black boys, Black History Month is filled with some pretty complicated emotions for me. On one hand, I’m proud of all of the many things we’ve been able to achieve as a people, which is nothing short of a miracle. On the other hand, this country still has a ways to go in terms of its raging disparities in education, wealth, and a long list of other things that separate majority culture from people of color.
And somehow, even with a dedicated 28 days a year to highlight the contributions of Black people in our country’s history, we still have alarming gaps in understanding those contributions from both adults and children. This is problematic. How do we have a whole month dedicated to learning about the contributions of Black people, and we still can only name about five Black people in history?
I’ll go ahead and list them here to get it out the way: Martin Luther King, Jr, Fredrick Douglas, Rosa Parks, Malcom X, and Harriett Tubman.
This is, in part, due to our dependence on the education system to prepare our children for their “cultural awakening”. We send our kids to school, hoping they will teach them more than we know, not realizing that the education system hasn’t changed much in engaging its shameful past with Black people.
What’s my point?
“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” – George Santayana.
This is my challenge: Be intentional about engaging your children in Black History Month. Similarly to how you don’t typically trust the education system to teach your child about other important life skills like finance, work ethic, morals, etc. Take responsibility for your children’s understanding of other cultures and their history with our country.
And just so you know, this isn’t targeted towards any one group of people. I’m Black and I wasn’t very aware of my own history until attending an HBCU. As parents, we have to educate our children on what they need to prepare for the world, and being culturally aware and prepared is something everyone needs to do.
So lastly, I will leave you with 5 quick tips on how to do this.
1. Plan Ahead. Black History Month happens every year. Don’t wait until February to begin trying to plan for it. Take time throughout the year to educate yourself on books and resources to prepare to engage your children. There are so many resources with child-friendly ways to sensitive topics.
2. Make it a Trip. In Atlanta, there is so much history here. Honestly, the history of Black People is rich through every city and state of this country. You just have to be intentional. Learn about the historic museums and sites in your community and take those trips with your children.
3. Get Creative. One of my favorite activities that my kids participate in for Black History Month is an activity where the school asks that parents help their children recreate a moment in history and take a picture of their child doing it. Then the child needs to be able to share three facts about that moment in history. This can be a really powerful activity because the child has to put themselves in the position of the person they are imitating and has to understand it on their own terms.
4. Don’t Shy Away From Difficult Conversations. The truth of the matter is our history is ugly. Attempting to make it pretty to “protect” your child can be misleading. Am I suggesting you jump straight in without considering adjusting for your child’s age and understanding? Not at all. I’m saying, don’t use this as a crutch to not prepare your children for the hard truths. (Lastly we will take a tip from Nike.)
5. Just Do It. You don’t have to be an expert to start but you must start. I remember going to college and feeling frustrated at how much I didn’t know about Black History. My parents only knew what they were taught and so did I. I was embarrassed. This is something your children may encounter at some point in their lives and the world may not be as forgiving. So, just do it.