Everyone in my immediate family is born in February. Literally from February first to the very last day of the month. Five birthday cakes, many-many candles, and an obvious reminder, we aren’t getting any younger. Also, the holiday of love is in your face for the first half of the month. Then suddenly people are prepping for Spring. Pump the brakes, we are forgetting that February is also Black History Month. As a mom I vow to teach my sons just what that means. It doesn’t matter if my boys are only three and a half and two years old. Exposure, lessons, conversation, and overall awareness of any topic leads to more knowledge and curiosity, which then grows an educated, cultured, experienced, open, and wise adult.
How Do You Embrace Black History Month When Your Community is Not Diverse?
I grew up in East Contra County, in a very diverse community, with families of all backgrounds. This is something I didn’t fully recognize (perhaps naïvely) until my husband and I made our way to the Napa Valley. It was revealed through time that the wine country area is not as diverse as my hometown of Pittsburg. Don’t get me wrong, I love the area we choose to raise our boys, but I knew that they will not have as diverse a childhood as their parents did. So, with that discovery, I made a commitment last year. When I start to see Valentine’s Day cards, conversation hearts, and supermarket saturated in red roses, (and we all know that is the day after Christmas) that I would begin to share with my boys why African-American figures should be honored.
Celebrating Black History:: Three Tips
Celebrate by Reading
Exposure to books and reading is a big part of my household and one day I will find the time to read through entire book of my choice (that doesn’t have pictures). For now my focus is reading to my boys, watching them retain stories, blossom with knowledge, and grow their imagination. Reading is the one of the biggest teaching tools that we can offer our children, so it seems quite simple: read.
My mother-in-law (an avid reader herself) bought a series of books by Brad Meltzer for my boys. They might be heavy for my preschooler and toddler, but that won’t stop me from reading them with my boys. The books have a stamp that reads: Ordinary People Change the World. Isn’t that something that we should all be teaching our children? That their voice, their thoughts, their actions matter and that they can change the world. The books feature male, female, black, white, humanitarians, inventors, leaders, who started out as ordinary people with BIG thoughts. When reading, be enthusiastic and passionate, I believe this will excite your children and peak their curiosity.
Celebrate through Play
I am a Stay At Home Mom, so artwork is always on my docket of things to do during the week. If you have an artsy child like mine, then roll up those sleeves and paint away. If you got a mini-chef on your hands, you can do the same activity, but get to eat the end product- sounds like a win-win huh? We all know that kids are extremely impressible, so why not incorporate the paints and snacks into learning? Moms (and Dads) can do a bit of research. For example, Garret Morgan invented the traffic light (he also invented the gas mask). Gather coloring pencils, tissue paper, paint, or crayons and make a traffic light! Rock that sweet tooth with m&ms or take a healthier approach and use different bell peppers arranged like a traffic light.
Celebrate through Inspiration
In the second grade, I learned about Frederick Douglass. I still remember the lesson, so much that I can recall asking more questions about him but, my teacher ran out of additional facts. Into adulthood, I read more about his life and legacy and was inspired by his tenacious drive and abolitionist fight. I look forward to when my boys can share their favorite Black History Leader, Activist, Humanitarian, Game Changer with me.
Like the influential Fredrick Douglass once said “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men”. Now, let his words sink in.