Most folks would be able to instantly identify images of these Black cultural icons like President Barack Obama, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., or Beyoncè. On the other hand, could they recognize Garrett A. Morgan, Shirley Chisholm, or Katherine Johnson?
With the current racial climate in America, we need to do better and continue to work toward the goal of racial equality. As parents raising the future generation of Americans, it is important for us to educate our children about the stories of great Black Americans who inspired, persevered and made history through difficult times in our country.
“Those who have no record of what their forebears have accomplished lose the inspiration which comes from the teaching of biography and history.” Carter G. Woodson, founder of Black History Month
Carter G. Woodson, a Harvard-educated, African-American historian, educator, journalist and visionary firmly believed that the contributions of Black people were hugely ignored and misrepresented by mainstream scholars. In an effort to find a way to positively highlight the achievements and cultural impacts that Black people had made on American society and history, Mr. Woodson launched “Negro History Week” Feburary 1926 in Washington, D.C. It was celebrated around Abraham Lincoln (Febraruy 12th) and Federick Douglass’ (February 14) birthdates in order to honor the two pioneers of American Civil Rights. By 1976, Negro History Week evolved to become Black History Month – an annual, month-long celebration observed in February by both the US and Canada.
Mr. Woodson deeply understood the importance of knowing and understanding the past as a way to guide our culture and future generations. It is important that we do not lose sight of the intentions of Black History Month.
As parents and allies, we must find ways to engage our young children, teens and young adults about Black History Month.
Learn about different movements, organizations and activists– born out of a means to decrease violence and racism toward Black people, activism is important to help and educate others about these movements. Find opportunities to engage in the fight against injustice. Speak up for those who need the support. Hold space for others.
- Visit the museum, cultural center, library or bookstore– The best way to avoid ignorance is to research and educate yourself to the plight of others. Visit your local museum or cultural center to discover initiatives that focus on Black culture and history. Visit your library or bookstore to find popular biographies about such folks as Malcolm X, Michelle Obama, Fannie Lou Hammer, Maya Angelou and Serena Williams.
- Watch a movie or documentary that features Black history—If you are on Netflix and unsure what to watch try out 13th, When They See Us, or Hidden Figures.
Be an ally – It’s important to try and understand and respect all people regardless of race. It’s important to find ways to learn about one another. Some ways can be more creative than others. Take this free board games called “Road to Racial Justice” for instance. It was founded by activist, Kesa Kivel, and is perfect for classrooms, staff trainings, community groups or family game nights.
The Los Angeles-based educator, Ms.Kival believes group time is a perfect opportunity to address uncomfortable situations offered up as part of the board game. Situations are provided to spark conversation and learn about social justice issues. Kesa developed the free board game over a three-year period with the help of a focus group comprised of individuals of various races and ethnicities. As of 2020, Kesa has received more than 2,500 requests for the downloadable game. Kesa is committed to sharing the game widely at no cost in order to promote racial justice, and she recognizes that the privileges that she has acquired because of her whiteness have made this possible.
My family and I got a chance to sit down and go over the board game. We downloaded the game from the “Road to Racial Justice” website, then printed it out as instructed. We needed dice and Post-its.
We also printed out the different situations and conversation starters. My younger children (ages 11 and 14) enjoyed that the game looked like a board game so they immediately got into the spirit of wanted to move along in the game.
My older college-age children appreciated the discussion around race and identity. As multiracial children of African-American descent, they appreciated the complexity of the culture they have to navigate on the daily. They remarked about how the board game’s situational card helped build another level of awareness, complete with actionable steps to take, helped them feel empowered to have more discussions about race and other social justice issues moving forward.
As parents reading and helping facilitate the situations brought up by the board game, we were able to use it as a tool; a way to gauge our children’s understanding of where they were in their understanding and learning.
As a family we worked our way through the board game, helped each other identify stereotypes, find ways to resolve prospective conflicts and feel a greater sense of playing our part in helping to dismantle racism.
Black History Month is the perfect time to learn about the amazing work from the Black community. It’s also an opportunity to discuss diverse topics, some which may be challenging to discuss. I’m thankful to the anti racist work folks are doing, like activist Kesa Kivel, in developing a creative way to engage those who want to do their part.
Black History Month is a great jumping off point, but everyday we have to put in the work.
For more information about Ms.Kivel and to download her free board game, head to www.roadtoracialjustice.org
Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post but all opinions are mine.