Black 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.
Last, February is a month in which I choose not to be colored for my White colleagues. On the other hand, If those at my place of employ wish, on their own, to recognize Black History Month with a slideshow and a steamed chicken meal (not a typo; the kitchen at school does not have a fryer) in the lunch room, I smile, knowing all-too-well that I will look back on the event and shudder.
Recently, a Black colleague, who, like me, teaches at a predominately-White enclave, 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.”