By TMoM Team Member Sydney D. Richardson, Ph. D.
It’s February! Aside from Valentine’s Day, it is also Black History month. Do you know what you and your family are doing to celebrate and engage in it? If not, you’re not alone.
While we celebrate during the month, most children (let alone adults) don’t even know why Black History Month is observed in February. Not only that, but many people learn about and celebrate only a few people, places, and events during this month. While Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, and the Civil Rights Movement are influential people and events of American History, there is even more to learn; therefore, consider making this month a family adventure of curiosity and exploration.
Now, be warned: that curiosity may lead to uncomfortable talking points, but that’s what learning is all about. When those moments arise (because we know that children ask everything about anything), be open and honest about the subjects of race and injustice. Also, be open and honest about triumphs and celebrations of African Americans. So, let’s delve in and seek out things to learn with kids during Black History Month:
- Learn about Ruby Bridges and join Ruby’s Room. Your child will join other children and experience Ms. Bridges reading to them.
- Visit the Charlotte Hawkins Brown Museum (Gibson, NC) and/or St. Phillips Moravian Church and museum.
- Learn about jazz musician John Coltrane and visit his statue in High Point.
- Visit the Delta Arts Center in Winston-Salem.
- Tour the International Civil Rights Center & Museum in Greensboro
- Watch High on the Hog and talk about cultural connections to food (a Netflix documentary about soul food in America). Try cooking one of the dishes shown.
- Check out the local library. Libraries often celebrate different themes of the year. See if any programs or readings are taking place at the library, and be sure to attend. These events are also great because they are free and age appropriate. For example, our local library is giving a workshop on quilts of the Underground Railroad. Children as young as age five can attend this event.
If you cannot make it outside or want to engage in an activity or lesson that lasts a bit longer, consider other ways to explore and celebrate Black History month. Below are a few more ideas:
Read Books by a Black Authors
Sulwe by Luita Nyong’o; Look Up! by Nathan Bryon; Change Sings by Amanda Gorman; Hair Love by Matthew Cherry; The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson; and Big Hair Don’t Care by Crystal Swain Bates are a few great ones to delve into.
Choose a Person Each Day
Each day, learn about someone new. These can be well-known figures, as well as those we often don’t hear of, such as Ida B. Wells (founder of NAACP); Lonnie Johnson (Scientist/Engineer and inventor of the Supersoaker); Madame C.J. Walker (1st female self-made millionaire); Henrietta Lacks (source of HeLA cell line); Valerie Thomas (creator of 3D imaging machine); and more.
Learn about young leaders and have children discuss ways that they can help others. Mari Copeny (age 10) wrote to President Barack Obama about the water crisis in Flint, Michigan. Since then, she has donated 1000 backpacks and school supplies to children in Flint, MI. Marley Diaz (12) started #1000BlackGirlBooks campaign, a challenge to finding 1000 books with black girls as protagonists. Mikala Ulmer founded Me & the Bees Lemonade after developing a curiosity about bees (as well as getting stung by one) around age 4. Nyeeam Hudson (age 11) gives motivational speeches about bullying after suffering from others bullying him. It’s always important for children to know that they do not have wait until they are adults to positively impact the world.
Black History month is full of rich history (good and bad), food, and music; that history continues. Celebrate with your children, learn new lessons, and enjoy this part of American history.
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