** I asked my sweet friend rose to share her perspective as a black educator during Black History Month. She currently teaches at the elementary level is a lover of The Lord and dedicated to her serving her communities.
“Black History is American History.” Words neatly placed on the bulletin board filled with biographies of Historic African Americans shout “Here WE are”. As a child, I can vividly recall the lack of bulletin boards celebrating Black History during February in my school. I can remember few school programs where my school recognized that Black History is American History. The belief that good things came from people who looked like me, was not something that was invested in me by the school but by my mother and father.
I am an African American woman teaching in a low-income school with majority African and African American students. I knew that I always wanted to be an educator who not only told my students that they can make history but that they come from people who have paved a way of redeeming history for the African American. This history includes people who are educated, people who overcome and people that resisted. The many figures that remain misrepresented in textbooks or hidden altogether. I have 180 days with my students. Those days are filled with academics, depositing positive character traits, and affirming their identities and personalities. These days are also filled with me inviting my students to embrace our history.
See something sparked in me as a young child when my mother who was a Jamaican Immigrant shared with me that Black History did not start with slavery, did not end with the Civil Rights Movement and is still being made today. There are many injustices in education, one of the major injustices being that Black History is not held in the same regard as American History in Urban Schools. You see we love to push curriculum that states Christopher Columbus discovered the land that was already inhabited by Native Americans. This same curriculum teaches that Abraham Lincoln desired freedom for slaves and fought to emancipate them because it was the “right” thing to do. Yet I teach majority African and African American students but there is no push for me to teach them about the legacy they come from. There is no professional development on why there is a differentiation between Black History and American History. There is no desire to express why there is a need for a Black History Month. I embrace Black History Month in my classroom not because I believe we should only spend 28 days discussing our history.
I believe it is an opportune time to push the necessity of Black History not only to the students who look like me but to the majority Caucasian staff who do not. There is something empowering for my students when I share with them stories of Fredrick Douglass who taught himself to read or Garret Morgan who invented the traffic light. There is something redeeming when I explain to them that slaves did not just obey their masters. When I look them in the eyes and remind them that we come to school to learn because there was and still is a time where education was such a great weapon that they would have been denied access to. When I share with them the truth that they can be something greater than their environment or the low expectations society places upon. When I encourage them to look towards examples like Jackie Robinson, Susan E. Goode or Harriet Tubman.
You see the world is full of narratives, that allow the growing minds of my students to develop their sense of self-worth or opportunity to be a contributing member of society. I believe part of my role as an educator is to be diligent and mindful of the narratives I place in front of my students and the examples I encourage them to glean from. I also believe part of my role as an African American educator is to faithfully remind my students that great things come from people who look like them.
When we fail to expose our students to images of black excellence, black resistance, black confidence and black perseverance we embed in them ideologies that these things do not exist in their culture or are just moments of the past. As mentioned I have 180 days with my students. Those days are filled with academics, depositing positive character traits, and affirming their identities and personalities. These days are also filled with me inviting my students to embrace our history. History that did not start with slavery, did not end with the Civil Rights Movement and is still being made today.