Ok y’all. Black History Month is almost over. Are you feeling accomplished in your child’s learning and exposure? Are you feeling under accomplished? Are you indifferent?
Over the years, for fear of being “offensive” or too “militant”, schools have watered Black History down into the “Black History Drive-thru.” The little kids come home with their Black History “cut and paste” projects. Middle and high schoolers might have to write a paper or something. Some schools even get a little fancy and do an actual program after it has been written by students, edited by the teacher, checked for content by the principal, and approved by the school district’s attorney for content that might be politically volatile (‘cause they don’t want to be in the news).
Malcolm X? Nah. Black Panthers? Strike that. A day in the life of a slave? Your teacher would lose her job. Stories from the middle passage? Now you’re getting ridiculous.
What does that leave us with? The good old, safe drive-thru menu that everybody can handle. It accomplishes the obligatory recognition of the month and the kids learn a little something…maybe.
The drive-thru menu is always the same and looks something like this:
#1 Martin Luther King, Jr.: Had a dream.
#2 Rosa Parks: Sat on the bus.
#3 Abraham Lincoln: Freed the slaves.
#4 Harriet Tubman: Ran the Underground Railroad
#5: George Washington Carver: Gave Us Peanut Butter
The Special! Barack Obama: Became the First Black President
Every February there is a conversation among my mommy sister-friends about whether or not we are doing enough to make sure we are giving our children “enough” during Black History Month and in general. Most of us are the first generation after segregation. Conversation about “The Struggle” was normal among family. Marching on King Day and attending an eighty-hour long King Day program were given and not optional. “Roots” played on television every February and every other commercial was a spotlight on a notable Black American. Spike Lee was feeding us history and dropping Black Pride knowledge in every one of his “joints” and we loved it. “The Cosby Show” and “A Different World” helped us to fall in love with, and guide us toward, African-American institutions of higher learning where we could get even more history directly from people who lived it.
Today, the conversation about the ugly truths of black history is as dreaded as the inevitable conversation about sex. The MLK holiday has been relegated to a ski weekend or an extra day off from school.
SO WHAT NOW?
It has become pretty obvious that we can’t sit back and rely on schools to take ownership! Ask just about any parent you know who is even slightly involved with what’s going on in the schools and they will tell you…its the un-funniest joke ever. Recently, education publisher Scholastic was forced to recall the book, “A Birthday Cake for George Washington”, a story that depicted a White House slave as the President’s jolly friend who was excited about baking the President’s birthday cake. In October 2015, another education publisher, McGraw-Hill was outed for referring to slaves as immigrant workers. For real?! Shout out to vigilant mom Roni-Dean-Burren and her amazing son for not stopping until it was addressed. I won’t go into a longer list because you have read about these inaccuracies, heard about them, or seen and felt them for yourself.
Don’t get me wrong, the inaccuracies are not just limited to Black folk, but, it’s February so Black History what I’m focusing on. Ask a Jewish mother about the depiction of the Holocaust and any mother who even looks Middle-Eastern what she thinks about what children are being taught (or not taught) about their cultures and you would cringe. Ultimately, it is our responsibility to make sure our kids are getting accurate information.
Honestly, the Black history curriculum is about as accurate as this portrait of Martin Luther King, Jr. that my son just brought home. Apparently, Martin only had one eye, one ear, was bald, and wore Cherries Jubilee lipstick by Avon.
My sister-friend, Kimberly Worthy is a dynamic educator and I asked her to provide us with a list of MEANINGFUL resources to educate not only our children, but ourselves about Black History and the history of Black History Month. Hopefully, she will be sharing more of her knowledge in the future, but here are a few links she gave me!! PLEASE ADD TO THIS LIST BY COMMENTING! Don’t wait until next year or we will all end up at the Black History Drive-thru with one eared, bug-eyed Martin again.
Dr. Carter G. Woodson, the “Father of Black History Month
The African Origins of Mathematics
Black History Quizzes and Crossword Puzzles
A Philip Randolph Pullman Porter Museum: The Evolution and History of the Union
Tell Me Who I Am: KidPositive
Monthly Subscription to Heritage Box
28 Black Picture Books that Aren’t About Boycotts, Buses or Basketball
I’m Joslyn Jackson. I have so many kids that I have to stop and take a headcount sometimes. This is my blog. That guy is my husband and he runs the circus. I am also a lawyer who loves to write about the absolute insanity that is my life. I started this blog to embarrass my children. That is my number one goal. If you are entertained in the meantime…great.
Today, my goal as a mother is to tell it like it is and fix it if I don’t like it is and fix it if I don’t like it.
That’s it! Love, Peace and Souuuuuuuuuuullllllll!