That Darn Black History Month Project

07192011_5_07192011_5_hiresDon’t let the title fool you…

 

So, while sitting in a team leaders meeting at the end of January, I was psychologically accosted by my administrator with the following statement (well, we all were, but I think I was the only one that had to restrain myself)

I have a bunch of really great books on famous black people that you guys can use in your classes during Black History Month.  They’re over on the table there.

“On the table there” were several elementary level books on the “ole standbys”: Jackie Robinson, Harriet Tubman, Bessie Coleman, W.E.B. Dubois, Martin, Malcolm and Barack and a few others.  Yanno. “them”.

Not a thing wrong with the titles. Good starting points I suppose.  I made a note of the availability of these “resources” and went back to ignoring the meeting.

The following morning in my team meeting, I commented on the resources and my youngest teacher (same age as my daughter, a great and powerful Millennial) burst out laughing.  “Mom” (she calls me mom), you didn’t curse her out when she suggested we use this, did you?

No, I focused on the pain in my ankle until she was finished.

voting-rights (1)Laughter.  We then decided what we’d be doing for our Black History Month project.

Before I continue, I suppose I should let those who might be new to this blog in on the joke.  See, I’m one of 6 black teachers in a building with 78 certified educators. Our student demographic (as of 2013-14) is as follows: 21% White, 35% Black, 39% Hispanic, with a smattering of Asians to round things out.  I endure this particular conversation every year in February.  Then I kick it up a notch.  This is how we did it.

Our social studies teacher just happens to be working on the Constitution and Amendments this month.  Our reading and language arts teachers just happen to be working on citing evidence from nonfiction and multimedia sources.  Its an election year and the kids are vaguely focused on it.  We took on Voting Rights.

There was a week long lesson on the 13th – 15th Amendments and the Voting Rights Act, complete with fiction and non fiction reading and writing activities, topped off with a “movie day” that started with a carousel learning event where 6 questions about voting rights in America were tackled. The carousel included pictures, poetry, music of the era, video clips, etc.  We all then sat down and watched the movie Selma together.

Invited the principal.  She was impressed. The kids got on their parents about being registered to vote and actually voting, I got to hum along with Mahalia, and we ate popcorn and Valentine’s Day candy all day.

Score!

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I tell you this to make it clear that Black History is dynamic and shouldn’t be confined to one month.  The lessons learned regarding blacks in America are about the history of the country, not just the history of blacks.  I am the history my students will experience 180 days out of the year… and beyond, if I do this right.  They bring history to me during that time also.

Its time to stop compartmentalizing the history of the people.  With that said, we’re taking voting rights into March, Women’s History Month…. Suffragettes anyone?

 

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