In elementary school, during Black history month, I completed a second grade journal entry that I will never forget. I was asked to describe what I wanted to be when I grew up. I drew a picture of a courtroom and an adult Attorney Alicia, holding a briefcase. (Just to give context, I was a very smart seven year old. I was sent to the fourth grade class for reading assignments, and I tutored kids in kindergarten).
But when my teacher read my journal entry, she looked at me with both shock and sadness in her eyes. I was immediately confused, assuming my journal entry would get the elated approval that I usually saw from teachers. She flatly said, “That is not likely. You can probably be a paralegal or something.” As soon as I got home, I asked my parents, “What’s a paralegal?” Everything hit the fan when I explained the “why” behind that question. My teacher’s racially-biased response to my answer to this common childhood question rocked my world to its core.
I Found Pride in Black History
At my next school, to the contrary, I felt immense racial pride when my Asian teacher, Mr. Yee, hosted a jeopardy style, school wide competition on Black history. Every February, our school circulated a thick packet of Black history facts. Each student memorized as much as they could with the hopes of winning prizes, accolades, and bragging rights. This competition not only revived my pride in Black history in America, but it generated my own sense of pride in my unwritten future as a Black woman in America.
Throughout my childhood, my dad shared so many beautiful stories about the trials and the triumphs of Black people in America. I read books. I watched videos. I visited museums. After each Black history lesson, I wanted to know even more about my people. I learned of many black engineers, scientists, doctors, politicians, and lawyers who excelled before I was born. Perhaps, my white second grade teacher didn’t get those lessons.
Black History is American History
As an educator, I have heard questions arise in curriculum meetings from parents and teachers as to why is it so important to include Black history. I have heard arguments that American history should be enough. The truth is, there is no American history without adequately covering Black history.
My goal is to prevent the media from being the sole source of education about Black people in America for my children. I refuse to wait for the schools to educate my children about Black history. We take trips to the Charles H. Wright Museum, which holds the world’s largest permanent exhibit on African-American culture with over 35,000 artifacts. We visit Hart Plaza during Black cultural celebrations.
Join us this year, and use Black History month as a chance to positively engage yourself and your children in Black culture. Below are some of my favorite Black history month activities.
Black History Events in Detroit
- Black History Month activities will be running all month long at the Michigan Science Center
- Black History Month celebrations at The Henry Ford
- A night of poetry and music during the Black History Month: A Night Celebrating Creativity and Movement event at the Detroit Institute of Arts
- Detroit Historical Museum
- Second Baptist Church – Detroit Underground Railroad Historical Society