I love Black History Month. True, I grew up in Arizona, which was the last state in the union to observe a civil rights holiday by any name. And true, it ultimately took losing the 1993 Super Bowl (and all its associated economic benefits) to convince Arizona voters to enact Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in the first place. But while I was growing up, those uncomfortable facts contributed to making February my favorite month of every school year. Being a socially aware person in Arizona during those events – child though I was – made history real for me. With few exceptions, the names and dates and places we were given to study in school were only approached in the past tense, but black history was alive and unfolding. It still is.
Now I’m grown and trying to raise another socially aware person – child though he is. I think I have it pretty easy: My son loves to ask hard questions, his school is very diverse, and he will never remember a time before America had a black president. However, because Black History Month is a month of living history, there’s always something new to learn and new ways to participate.
Last week, I took my son to the Museum of Science in Boston. Before we saw a planetarium show, we explored the MoS’s current exhibit on race. My son is still in preschool, so there were plenty of things he missed while we were there that will come up again in time. Looking at the broad relationship between geography and variations in skin color was much easier than navigating the cultural ties between race and income disparity, for example. He was excited to add a picture of the back of his hand to the interactive mosaic in the exhibit, but examining it closely led him to ask, “Why aren’t there more pictures of brown skin?”
Just like that, we were part of the exhibit. I asked him to look around at the other visitors in the room and tell me what he saw. “They’re all white like us.” We went out to the rail and looked around at the rest of the museum. “Where are the black people?” It was a good question, but before I could think of an age-appropriate way to connect his observation to the content of the exhibit, he asked one with an easy answer: “The next time we come here, can I bring a friend?”
Black History Month 2011 ends today, but don’t let that deter you from participation. If you don’t live near the MoS, don’t worry; the Race Exhibit travels and it may come to a museum near you. Even if it doesn’t, there are still some excellent resources online, including the Smithsonian website, Biography.com, and my favorite: PBS. WhiteHouse.gov also has a great series of posts called ‘Celebrating Black History Month‘ – check often because there’s something new every day in February. Too, the National Education Association has many great links and ideas intended for classrooms, but I think the material really comes to life in our family rooms.
2 thoughts on “Black History Month is Living History Month”
Good post, thank you.
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