Tomorrow’s the first day of February and some of us may be noting that the year is “really flying by” and certainly most of us remember that it’s that time of the year. The month set aside to recognize or celebrate the contributions of African-Americans. So I wonder, is that it? Are we waiting to see what special programming is on PBS? Do we just share some facts or plan a few activities for our classes and then business as usual? The question I really want to ask here is, “Why are we really celebrating Black History Month? What is it that motivates or inspires us to observe this time of the year? What do we hope for our students to gain from it? Do we even have expectations for them around this time of the year?
Many of us already know that Dr. Carter Godwin Woodson is considered the “Father of Black History”. He founded the Association for Negro Life and History in 1915. He later established the quarterly publication, The Journal of Negro History. Then in 1926 he spearheaded the observation of Negro History Week, which did not become Black History Month until 1976. Woodson had written nearly twenty books and it is safe to say he was devoted to documenting the life and contributions of African-Americans. Today, as with most historical figures, there are numerous institutions erected in his name and created to continue his legacy. However, my question remains: Why are we really celebrating Black History Month?
I often say I could live many lifetimes and still not know all that people of the African diaspora have accomplished and contributed. Nonetheless it seems to me that knowing is not enough. Although I readily admit I don’t know nearly as much Black history as I thought I did. Yet, what do we do with all our knowing regardless of how much we have? We have said here countless times that teaching our students their history and developing racial and cultural pride is at the core of culturally responsive education.
The challenge is that we don’t merely impart knowledge or information but rather find ways to make our classrooms transformative spaces for our students. The effectiveness of our teaching is not determined by a supervisor’s rating or even a set of test scores. The true measure of our power and impact as educators is in the lives we are able to influence. We know teaching Black history is not just for the next 28 days but 365. So give careful consideration to how and what you will engage your students in the next four weeks.
If you live in the NYC Metro area, you can find BHM activities here , here, and here for you and your students. There are numerous ways to engage your students in not only history but also art, music, botanical science, fashion, photography, activism and much more that is relevant and meaningful to them.
Whether you watch a film, visit a historical site, see a performance, facilitate a class debate, invite a guest speaker, conduct research projects or deliver oral presentations about Black history; every student should come away with a sense of what is possible and knowing that they matter and their own contributions are critically important. We hope you find the inspiration to dig a little deeper and make the every day Black History.
Peace and love good people.
Please remember to like, comment, and share!