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Black History Month: In my eyes

As a Haitian Immigrant, I did not learn about "Black History Month" until I moved to the states. I never gave much thought behind the concept until I became a teacher. I started questioning the real meaning of "black history" and how I felt about having a designated month to celebrate and honor brave black men and women who have made and continue to make major contributions in the advancement of our world.

I am not here to question the relevance of black history month, that would be absurd. I know Carter G. Woodson’s vision is very much still relevant and the concept is very useful today. If you think about it, Negro history week which is now (black history month) was created to bring visibility to black lives.

Before I get into more details answer me this, right now as you read this blog in 2020 do you think black history month is being used to fulfill it's true purpose? Is it being used to bring about change?

One of my many issue is that, I simply need more. A simple month isn't enough to celebrate my greatness, honor my history, pay tribute to honorable, bring awareness to important issues that are devouring my community-- While still fighting adversity.

What am I suppose to do the other 11 months? Forget all of that?

We live in a very racist society and in my humble opinion "society" needs to be reminded of the achievements of black people on daily. I do not believe brief and structured mentions during the year's shortest month is going to have a major impact in fighting racial injustice in this country or any other country at that. I just do not see it.

One of my other issue is that I sadly fear black history month is losing it's value among today's generation. It seems like it's becoming something people mention "just to mention".

I'd like to share a little story--

~~Last February while teaching, I received a sticky note saying " please add a book in your lessons about black history month" under that were suggestions of many different books I can read to the class. I was livid!

In any case, I picked a book later that afternoon and add it in my lesson plan for the day--I did not read the book to the class. Matter fact, I did not mention anything about black history in my class for the next two weeks. I wanted to see how long it would take for anyone to realize about black history. Parents were interested in knowing what their children should bring in for show and share but didn't care to know if their kids were learning about the brave Harriet Tubman and the Pronominal Ms. Maya, and the Inspirational Nelson Mandela. Nothing, no one realized nor cared enough to even ask.

I decided to continue my little observation even further. Three weeks into February I started working on a project where I displayed information, facts, quotes on some of my favorite black philosophers, leaders, people I truly admire. Once the project was completed, I taped it outside my classroom window, everyone loved it, teachers, parents, management and all. Mind you I did the whole project myself, my students had nothing to do with it and still had no idea what black history month was.

In conclusion, I realized it was all a show, an act, it's all entertainment. As soon as that "book" was added in the lesson, their job was done- Lord knows that bothered me for days.

So I said to myself, "if it bothers you so much do something about it". I had three gorgeous little girls in my class that year, they worshiped the ground I walked on simply because they saw themselves in me. I made it my business to compliment their outfit choices, their hair, their intelligence. I reminded them everyday that they were beautifully created, and that their brown skin was actually golden chocolate.

I spent the rest of the school year talking about black history at least once a week with all my students. We discussed and celebrated diversity in all aspects ethnicity, language, experiences, gender etc. It made me realize the only way to continue woodson's vision is to make yearlong efforts of recognition and that recognition should not feel forced, limited and unappreciated . It needs to be a natural part of our lives.

That little incident if you want to call it that changed something in me. In my eyes, It was a perfect depiction of how main stream America treat black history in general. They quote Dr. King every February-- then go on the rest of the year adding to the social/ racial injustice that black people face on a daily.

Stephanie Taina



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