Black history isn’t so much a "month" in our household as it is a lifelong educational process. But it sure is convenient that one month out of the year relevant experiences are much more easily found. Festivals, parades, theatrical performances, jazz festivals, and even book displays at the library put African American cultural information right out our fingertips. And for those living in areas without predominant Black cultural influences readily available all-year long, it would be a shame to let those teachable moments pass.
Music and books are probably the easiest way to infuse cultural heritage on a daily basis. It helps that I’m a huge fan of Gospel music, so I don’t have to search too hard for our daily dose there! Books are also a great staple. We try to select books that not only have children who look my daughter, but books that also teach African American history. Two of our favourites right now are One Million Men and Me (Boo picked this out when she was about 2 years old because the girl on the cover had the same two-puff hairstyle that she was wearing that day) and Rosa’s Bus. However, if you’re looking for a great list of graphic novels, check out Library Journal’s list of 25 graphic novels for African American history month. I’ve taken note of a few that we’d like to get our hands on.
And don’t forget, current events are always a great way to remind our little ones that they can do and be anything. I was checking out an article on Michelle Obama the other day when Boo asked me how come she wasn't president instead of Barak Obama, and whether or not women could be President, too. No doubt I needn't explain how cool this was, not because of what was asked, but what wasn't.
Now this is the part of my post where I start to gush. I love August Wilson. There, I said it. Not only one of the most prolific playwrights in American history, Wilson’s “Pittsburgh Cycle” (or "Century Cycle") is a collection of decade plays that chronicle the Black experience in America. If you haven’t had a chance to see one, at the very least consider buying the plays from your local bookstore or checking them out at the library. I promise you won’t be disappointed.
For me, I love the theatre. As my daughter gets older, I pray that she shares this love with me, as well. I remember sitting in a small theatre in Leimert Park some 15 years ago watching a production of an August Wilson play, and being swept away. I have to give credit to the small venue, and the invitation to audience members to join the actors on stage for the duration of the play, to my visceral connection to the experience. Had I not been taking an African American Theatre history class at UCLA, I likely would never have known about that tiny little venue, let alone the awesome production that still resonates with me all these years later.
What I took away from that experience was not just the haunting words of Wilson that speak to the ghosts of our historical past, but how much I learned about the differences in how White America watched theatre versus how Black America did (kind of how it goes at church, too). Flash forward to my current parenting years. Not only do we place importance on exposing our daughter to cultural events about Black history, but it is equally as important (if not more so) that these events be experienced with an African American audience. In short, if you can get to a venue that produces Black theatre (or music, or art, etc.) for a Black audience, do it.
So yeah, Black History "Month" is 365-day-a-year process, one that I hope builds in my daughter a sense of self identity and cultural appreciation. Sure, we can gripe about how February is the shortest of all the months. But I prefer to embrace all of the great books, music, events, food, and other activities that make their way out of the back recesses of our history and into the limelight, if only for a month in some areas. I don't know about you, but I'm always looking for looking for new experiences to share with my little one, and I'll take them when and where I can. It can be hard sometimes for adoptive parents to find the resources that they need, so I don't think there's any shame in taking a little help from Black History Month.
But just because Black History Month makes it a little easier to find resources, that doesn't mean that we get to a free pass for the rest of the year. Every day is important when it comes to raising our daughter.