Okay, a super quick note about the abundant posts I’ve seen recently about Black History and those we are choosing to celebrate this month. There is an interesting conundrum of what constitutes black history and how we encourage our children to make black history themselves. We love to celebrate our history, 365, but especially in February when we are blackity black black. However, too many teacher friends I see are highlighting our history as slaves instead of enslaved and in the present only entertainers and those in the arts/ sports etc. Now don’t get me wrong. Beyoncé is a black Bill Gates in the making. Total boss. But what message are we sending our children? Is it the same message that white supremacy cultural norms have sent us for centuries? Black people are exceptional…ly great at certain things. Like sports, and singing, and dancing and anything else having to do with entertainment. When you search the internet for the greatest Americans of all time or even the most influential people of all time, you will get a long list of mostly white men, and very few people of color. You see a long list of explorers, scientists, historians, authors, religious leaders and others that are deemed the greatest. So where do we stand as educators? When discussing those that have contributed to society, do we focus on the entertainers and the sports stars? Do we reinforce this attitude by telling our kids during the month of February they should aspire to be good at sports or singing and then they can be black history too? Again, this is not to diminish the contribution of those in the entertainment and sports industries. However, is that all we are good at?
Or can we focus on game changers. How many intellectuals and leaders are we highlighting? If we choose to focus on our enslaved ancestors, can we teach our kids about Toussaint Louverture, the badass Haitian general that led his people in a revolution that eventually became the first successful movement defeating colonialism and slavery when they declared themselves a sovereign state in Haiti. How about highlighting Mae C. Jemison, the first black woman to go into space, and her immense love for reading about science. There are so many great heroes of color that can serve as examples to our youth. Footsteps they can follow.
This is especially true of my fellow Spanish teachers. I have seen too many posts of those who are the “major contributors” of Afro-Latinx decent to highlight during February. Victor Cruz? Zoe Saldana? Celia Cruz ? (okay, she’s an absolute legend but that’s beside the point). We have to do better for our students!! Let’s give them examples outside the entertainment industry that show them the genius, the complexity, the absolute force found among Afro-latinx. What about Ursula Burns, the first black woman to be a CEO of a Fortune 500 company (xerox) who is Afro Latina? Or José Celso Barbosa – physician, sociologist, and politician. Elizabeth Acevedo amazing Dominican-American writer. Felipe Luciano- activist, Arturo Schomburg – historian. This is just to name a few of so many. I only encourage you to be thoughtful to the messages we are giving our children about Black History and Black heroes. Words matter. Content matters.
Founder of Anda Spanish