It’s That Time of Year Again!

imagesBlack History Month has become, in recent years, one of my favorite times of the year. As I have gotten older, I have come to appreciate in a deeper and more significant manner all of the many things that those Black Americans who came before me – my ancestors included – have done to make the United States what it is today. While every day is Black History Month for me, the fact that there is a month dedicated to acknowledging the achievements, rather than the pathologies, of Black Americans, makes me feel so very proud.  I even think that I stand a bit straighter, and walk a bit taller, throughout the month of February.

February is also the month in which I begin baking the first of several birthday cakes for family members.  February is my Dear Brother’s birthday, March is my Dear Mom’s birthday, April is my birthday – yes, I bake my own cake; haven’t found a bakery cake that is to my liking; and September is my Dear Dad’s birthday.

Recently, a Black colleague, who, like me, teaches at a predominately-White school, sent me an email recently.  Like so many of us educators of color, her administrators are looking to her to be colored for them, and take the entire responsibility for planning and executing a Black History Month event on her shoulders.   I sent her the following reply:

As a wise anti-racist educator, Sonia Nieto, once told me, as I was trying to decide whether or not to return to independent school teaching, “You do diversity work because you want to do it.”   

That said, I don’t think you have to do an elaborate program, or even one on your own.  Does the school have a student diversity committee? Perhaps this is something which needs to be discussed with your head of school for next year.  It’s really the kids’ job to spearhead such things. 
To that end, why don’t you assign to one of your history classes a mini-project, i.e. a slideshow presentation, set to music, to highlight some aspect of Black history, e.g. the Black history of Houston? This will not only be a learning experience for the kids, but also for the entire school community.  Plan a short assembly where the slideshow can be presented, and have students make introductions, etc.
OR – assign to a particular class the task of collecting readings  – facts, poems, etc. that can be read during an all-school assembly.
What the above ideas do is remove the task from your shoulders, personally, and turn it into an academic exercise, which is what it should be, anyway.
Ok…so, I suggested the slideshow idea to my colleague.   Don’t hate.
I realize that the depths of pride and admiration I personally experience during the month of February will never be fully experienced by my White colleagues.  So, a steamed chicken meal and a slideshow are perhaps as close as many of them will ever get.  And, not having to be colored for them feels oh so good.