Black History Month, African-American history Dear Teachers: Do's and Don'ts of Black History Month
My name is elaine johnson, wife, mother, educator master storyteller. So today this is for you, teachers um i have to. I have to be honest and letting you know that during this time – and i mean about mid january when we start talking about dr martin luther king jr and through the month of february african american parents and many places suburban school districts, inner city, wherever you are Private school are kind of waiting with baited breath wondering what are teachers going to teach their children during this time? What stories are they going to talk about, dr martin luther king jr? What stories are they going to share during black history month and i have to um it it? It causes anxiety, because we are unsure of the message that will be given, and so i want to start just sharing with you. Some of the things that i do in my own classroom and also some of the things that i do with my own children, because i do not want them to experience trauma, so i always start with guys. Do you did you know that we are 99.9 alike? 99.9 percent of life it doesn’t matter, if you’re, african, american caucasian hispanic asian, we are all 99.9 percent alike, and so that 0.1 makes a difference in the amount of melanin we might have in our skin. The whiteness of our nose, the curliness of our hair or straightness of our hair or the color of our eyes, and so really, if we are 99.
9 alike, we are so much more the same than we are different. So imagine starting your lessons about some of the history of america by first talking about how wonderful and how alike we are, we all really are, so i want to start with the don’ts. Please do not start your lessons or your introduction um to black history month with slavery. Please do not start with slavery. It is traumatic and it’s traumatic for a number of reasons, one because many people aren’t taught about the resilience they’re not taught about the revolts and they’re not taught about the resistance. If you don’t use those three things, when you talk about slavery, just don’t talk about it at all revolts, resilience resistance. It has to be at the forefront of your education about slavery. If you decide to talk about enslaved africans, prisoners of war, please use those three words and, if you’re not sure how to teach in that way, don’t do it. That is a don’t, because when you, when you don’t teach it in a way that shows african americans in a position of resistance resilience and the revolts, it is traumatic, it is soul, stomping, and so i don’t think that’s what you want to do, um and for Us as parents, we don’t know what educators are going to do and that’s one of our biggest fears is for someone to teach our children about slavery in a way that doesn’t show the fight that african americans had.
That doesn’t show that intellect that went through that went um with the revolts and the resistance, and you should really do research so that you can know exactly what i’m talking about um don’t start with slavery and do not end with martin luther king. Everything is happy. We’Re all equal and martin luther king and rosa parks are great people. They are amazing people, but please do not start with slavery and with um the civil rights movement. I think that it’s important, if you are going to share stories about slavery – and this is a book that i have in my classroom – tell all the children our story. It was written by tanya bolton. This is an amazing piece of work. I’Ve had it in my classroom for the last 20 years i don’t read everything with my students right. I don’t tell them all of the horrific stories that happen with slavery um unless i’m prepared to really tell them the truth, and so i want to make it very clear that the problem was not their brown skin. The problem is racism. The problem is white supremacy. If you’re not willing to share that information with your students, please do not talk about slavery. When i talk about slavery, if i, if i even talk about slavery um, but if i when i talk about and introduce black history month, i make it a point. I make it a point to talk about african history.
First, i make it a point to talk about the greatness of african kingdoms. First, that is first and forefront i’m in information that i share because, again the trauma of being in the classroom and whether you are white like who, whoever is in the classroom, whoever you are teaching if we don’t juxtapose, you know the horrors of prisoners of war And slavery with the beauty and resilience of africans and african americans, then we are not doing our story. Justice and so read. Do your research. There are so many wonderful books out there. There are so many documentaries, there’s a documentary called 13th. Read it. Please read it: amazon, prime. There is a documentary, a whole five part series by dr jeremy lewis, gates about the different, wonderful, wonderful, um information about different countries in africa. Before i even actually start with black history month. I start teaching about african civilizations before um. I i always introduce a project on the continent of africa and different countries of africa, and my you know: i’ve been doing it. The last 14 years at my school and people may get tired of the projects that i do and i plan on figuring out how to do it virtually. But i think that we have to try to as educators change the narrative and release the trauma about um and how we teach students. If you’re going to teach black history month, teach you about the joy that um that it is being and experiencing black culture.
And i don’t mean there’s another don’t, you know talking about you, know, athletes and entertainment and sports. You know, i think that we need to get. I think jackie robinson is amazing and please teach about how but also teach about other people who have been inventors and scientists and mathematicians and um astronauts and all of those people as well. You know there’s so much information there’s, so many books that you can use i’m actually going to make another video where i share some of my specific resources that i use in a classroom. But before black history month starts read books, teachers watch documentaries do not traumatize our students do not fit into the stereotypes of athletes: sports, entertainment, music. We are so much more than that. If you think that you are ready and willing and want to teach you about slavery, you have to take a teach. You have to teach about the revolts, you have to talk about the resistance and you have to talk about the resilience every year that i have taught, or even mentioned slavery – and i mentioned to this – to um in professional development meetings and also at staff meetings. I talk about how proud i am – and i tell my son it’s, also that my ancestors made it. They made it across the waters and we’re here today. If you can’t share that information with our children, you have to think of a better way. You know, because, with the movement to social justice and anti racism, there’s a lot of internal work, that has to be done and if you are a teacher listening to this and you’re you’re, really really willing and ready to do the work.
It has to start with. Your first dealing with your own biases and different things that you have to work on, but it also starts with your own re education, and so, if you would like more videos like this, if you would like more information about how to teach certain concepts um, please, Like follow subscribe comment, i will share some links in the bottom to just reference, some of the series on netflix and some of the things on amazon, prime, but also some of the books that i read through again. I don’t show my students, everything because i don’t think they’re ready, but i do think that it’s really important to just really um share authentic real stories about our history and so be very careful about um. The white, saviors and slavery stories be very careful about who are you getting your information from and who wrote the story? I try to choose resources from african american authors and illustrators. I try to look to see where they also um got their sources from so again when i, when i try to teach these lessons and when i come to you as an educator and as a parent, i just want you to be aware of what you can Do to make sure that your students do not experience trauma that whenever you decide to teach black history month that you come from a place that is kind think about how you would want your child to be taught and um that’s.
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