Good Morning good people!
Because goodness knows that our current times with the Cheeto-in-Chief is sickening and his Frederick Douglass reference yesterday was…oh lordt.
And Queen Beyonce and King Jay dropped the bestest biggest news to welcome in Black History Month on PURPOSE.
And so today we’re talking all about celebrating ourselves and not waiting for others to celebrate us. We shining out here.
On February 2nd, 1914 the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People gave out the first annual Spingarn Award:
The purpose of the medal is twofold: first to call the attention of the American people to the existence of distinguished merit and achievement among Americans of African descent and secondly to serve as a reward for such achievement, and as a stimulus to the ambition of youth of color.
J.E. Spingarn was the Chairman of the NAACP Board of Directors, treasurer and second President of the NAACP. He was also Jewish. BOOOOOM! Messed you up, right? He established the Spingarn medal to be awarded annually into perpetuity (in his will he set up a fund to ensure this would happen) and it is presented as the highest and most noble achievement for persons of African descent.
Last year’s gold medal winner was the Honorable Nathaniel R. Jones, who played an integral role in ending school segregation as a member of the NAACP general counsel. At 91 years young, Jones is still actively engaged in ensuring justice and liberty for all black folk.
So, if you’re like me, you never heard of the Spingarn Medal. At best, if you think of the NAACP you might conjure up the Image Awards. And when you think about ways we as Diasporic people celebrate our accomplishments and achievements, what comes to mind? BET, Soul Train, Black Girls Rock….errrr….
What I love about the Spingarn award is that it moves beyond the fields of entertainment and shows Black excellence and genius in all its forms. Therefore, I ask you, how are you seeing the excellence and genius of the students in your class in all their forms? Looking beyond the kids who score well on the tests, or the ones who write beautiful prose or are great mathematicians. How are you celebrating every student that sits before you? And if you haven’t been, I want to encourage you to celebrate them now, during our Fearless February Fiesta (yeah I know that was corny, but so what).
Find a way to acknowledge the strength, beauty and talent of every child you interact with and celebrate them publicly and joyously for the next 26 days. And if you’re an OG educator like me, you could look up the list of Spingarn winners and match a winner to each kid; the match could be aspirational. Imagine celebrating the student who struggles with writing by telling them you think of Maya Angelou every time you see them, and then encourage them (i.e. make an assignment) to research and discover Mother Angelou. You could call it the “Class 503 NAACP Spingarn Fearless February Celebration of Black Excellence Connecting the Future to the Past”. Yeah, that’s a long title. Call it what you want, but endeavor to teach our kids about those who came before them and letting them know, we don’t need to seek awards from others. We don’t need to fight to be recognized by others. We recognize ourselves, always have and always will.
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