Increasingly, schools across the nation are celebrating the achievements of African Americans year-round but Black History Month in February continues to be a helpful reminder in continuing this great work. One year for Black History Month, I created a program for my son’s elementary school that is easy to duplicate. If you’re interested in planning something for Black History Month at your school (whether in an in-person or virtual environment) here are some helpful steps to get organized:
Step 1: Get Approval, Gather Volunteers & Plan
First, I spoke with the principal of the elementary school and discussed my idea to celebrate Black history. After getting approval, I gathered parent volunteers to help me plan. When we met, we discussed prominent African American people from the past and the present who used their voices to take a stand.
The thought behind it was that we wanted to set an example for students, faculty, and parents to use their voices to take a stand against injustices in our world but also to advocate for positive change in our world. We wanted everyone who attended the end-of-the-month assembly to know that their voice mattered and that we were counting on them to use it and to take a stand concerning the issues of the day.
Step 2: Implementation & Engagement
Once the volunteers agreed on which prominent African Americans to focus on, we gave each grade level, K-6, two of the people to learn about. Their job was to research their people of interest and come up with creative ways to talk about them at the assembly. As a result, all of the classrooms in each grade worked together and took time to practice what they were going to present.
Step 3: The Presentations
The presentations were absolutely magnificent as the assembly began with the choir singing/playing the Black national anthem “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” along with other prominent African-American music throughout the program. There was artwork, professionally framed portraits of the featured African Americans, poetry, and chanting. The students led the charge by marching out (signifying marches during the civil rights movement) together from their classrooms saying, “Use Your Voice,” and then the parents followed up by saying “Take a Stand!” This was on repeat! It was so powerful and my favorite part of the assembly. We even had one of the prominent African Americans we featured repost about our assembly on his social media account!
Step 4: Reflect on the “Why”
The “why” behind the students’ research and the assembly was to showcase important contributions by African Americans from both a historical context and in the present day. We also wanted to shed some light on the abundance of accomplishments and significant contributions to society that African Americans are responsible for. We did not want to focus on an incomplete and inaccurate telling of Black history that started and ended with slavery, and how we all lived “happily ever after.” We focused on African Americans that we felt were overlooked in curriculums and we highlighted the fact that there was still work to do for ALL to experience the American ideals of liberty and justice for all. We emphasized the point that we were all responsible to continue the work of advocacy and justice in our world. Also, we wanted to make sure that everyone knew that they could make a difference right where they were in their spheres of influence, by using their voices and taking a stand. The featured African Americans the students researched and studied were doing just that! They used their voices and influence to take a stand against injustice and paved a better way for future generations.
The challenge with Black History Month in most of our schools —although I am hopeful it is starting to shift — is that Black history is either ignored altogether or taught in an inaccurate way. Another challenge is that many schools/teachers do not have ample examples of accounts of positive Black history, because they have never learned it themselves. Oftentimes, it was not recorded or was hidden, stolen, belittled, etc. As a result, the rich culture of African-Americans, which is interwoven in the fabric of American society, has often been overlooked and misrepresented. Let it not be so moving forward! Just like Maya Angelou said, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better do better.” We can do better! It’s time to dig up that rich African-American History and continue to highlight the present successes.
Join our Virtual STEM Fair Celebrating Black History Month! Inspire students to consider a future STEM career. Students and Teachers in Grades 3-8 are invited to listen to an exciting line-up of career speakers & guest teachers. Register FREE Today >