What can we do with February?
It seems to be a very commercial month. It is a month of Hallmark cards, See's candy and cut flowers. Choosing to be more scientific, one could address the reasons why this month is so short. This gets into astronomy, rotations of the earth around the sun and the evolution of our calendar. That's good but it just doesn't seem enough somehow. In an effort to cover more subject material within one theme, Black History month was the answer.
Once you get past all the politic and social undercurrents that must be, at least, acknowledged in that the shortest month of the year, February, was the month chosen for the celebration of the contributions given our country by our citizens of African descent. The material available for study is endless.
Way back when, whenever I was in school the two African Americans we studied were Harriet Tubman and Martin Luther King Jr. Honestly, we didn't study their lives, their accomplishments, or their contributions. They were mentioned among other issues discussed. The Civil War and President Lincoln were accompanied by a side line about the Underground Railroad and Harriet Tubman. The Sixties and Presidents Kennedy & Johnson were covered as Martin Luther King Jr. became a footnote. Needless to say, my knowledge of the lives, triumphs and defeats by an entire segment of our population was lacking.
I have to make sure that my children receive a better education and understanding of the society in which we live so that their opinions of people, places and things are not based in ignorance. Our society is a mixed race society with people from all areas of the world. They bring with them traditions and beliefs from their homeland as they assimilate into the wider American culture to varying degrees. The amount of time in which a family has lived in the United States also has an impact on their children's beliefs and behaviors.
A newly arrived immigrant reacts differently to a situation than one whose family has been in this country for centuries. The community social codes impacts the way in which children learn to interact as they grow into adulthood. Intermarriage and the children of those marriages are sometimes treated differently than those who are of one cultural or racial background. This diversity should be celebrated instead of scorned. Children of diverse backgrounds have the opportunity to learn first hand from all their heritages.
"But I'm not Black, why should I study African American History?"
Good question. An article in Interrace magazine entitled, "Roots in Many Gardens" discusses with Shirlee Taylor Halzip, her mixed race background and the passing of family members as "white."
She states, "95% of white people have African heritage, 85% of black people have European heritage, and 80% of black people have Native American heritage. If we were taught that early on, we would grow up with a different attitude about physical differences."
So even if you aren't black, your friends or neighbors may be, even if they don't look like it.
Where can one begin to study Black culture and history?
There are many books at the library about the following Black Americans: Sojourner Truth, Malcom X, W.E.B. DuBois, A. Philip Randolph, Toni Morrison, Harriet Jacobs, Onnie Lee Logan, George Washington Carver, and don't forget Harriet Tubman and Martin Luther King Jr.
The social/political/spiritual movements of the Black community are worthy of study as well: the Harlem Renaissance, the Black Muslim Movement, the Civil Rights Movement, and much of our modern music; jazz and the blues are based in Black spiritual music.
There isn't a subject that one could study that there hasn't been some contribution by African Americans. But why doesn't the general population know or acknowledge this?
That is a question to ponder, as we who chose to view the world through realities eyes and strive to teach our children a greater understanding of the society in which they live by doing what we do best; providing them with the information, knowledge about all peoples, in greater depth and understanding than they could get anywhere else.
After all this, I'll get back to the construction paper hearts, cherubs and maybe a piece candy.