Updated: Mar 12
I remember teaching kindergarten in a public school about ten years ago. Super excited because it's February Black History Month. Following my weekly lesson plans, the assistant asked why I continued to accentuate black history. Tension was in our conservation. The tone in her voice and her body language changed. Both of us were letting our emotions take the lead. I remained calm. My response, what is the issue with pushing for it not to be in the classroom? The assistant glanced in my classroom and noticed various pictures of African Americans around the room. I bought my books for resources. I intended to incorporate skills and standards that aligned with the curriculum. The assistant was still against it. She asked how this would benefit the students. My reply to her " 90% of the students that attend the school is black / African American." The books you are ordering do not reflect the students. When they are watching television, there is no representation of them. She stated five-year-olds need to learn about community helpers and plants. The question I pose is: Who is responsible for educating young people? Who influences the information children receive? Who decides what information is relevant? Learning about community helpers is salient because they will see these people and interact with them. They will eventually learn about them through interaction and over time.
Growing up every year Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was the focus. The information taught lacked a lot and was water down. When I was in junior high school, I learned about other activists for the first time. My school organized presentations, assemblies, and mandatory texts about Dr. King. Dr. King contributed significantly to black culture and the civil rights movement. But why stop there? Many people broke barriers and fought for equality. Let's not leave them out. Students need to know who Charles Drew is and his story. He is well known for performing the first open-heart surgery. His story and life go further than that. African Americans created many inventions we use today. Few people know that. People often exploit the black community. Often African Americans are portrayed as rappers and athletes. People still believe the myth that black women are on government assistance, overbearing and hostile. These stereotypes are because of the lack of knowledge and prejudice they see. This will impact how they perceive themselves.
It is essential to know our past; if we want to improve our future. Events seem to repeat themselves; history has not changed much. The stories we learn as children inform how we see the world as adults. So it is only right we teach black history in the classroom. Everyone is not fortunate to be exposed to different things. Unconsciously we accept so much and never question things. Educating our youth and instilling in them these concepts is essential. It teaches them that no matter your circumstances, or limitations, you can achieve anything you set your mind to. I used to like the quote, "Aim for the sky because even when you miss, you are still among the stars." That was my quote, but now I know better. I am not setting amongst the stars. I am going to keep going because there is no limit.
Students should have access to all knowledge. We must look at things from a different perspective to help students reach their full potential. How would you ever know where you are going if you are unaware of where you came from? Our ancestors faced systematic punishment for their effort to hold on to the culture. By not exposing our students to their culture' we are letting it go and pretending it did not exist. I love my culture. I will continue to educate myself and my son about our past.
This past week we went to the Schomburg Museum
and learned a lot. The focus was comic books, and I didn't know there were so many black superheroes. My son and I were amazed at the different superheroes and how they reflect so many people. You learn something every day. I am determined to keep learning and growing in knowledge because anything that doesn't grow is dead.
Below is a youtube link to books that I recommend for your little scholar