By Cheryl Coleman
Black History Month will be over at the end of February. The question that is asked every year is “Should we only have one month to celebrate black history?” I believe, Black History Month should be all year long. There are thousands of African American women, men and children that don’t know enough about their own history and could benefit from having a year-long intentional focus on learning about their rich history – especially in schools. All young children should have the opportunity to gain a better understanding of black history and learn about the contributions that were made by African Americans.
Black History month reminds the African American students the importance of their history but it shouldn’t end on March 1. For example, the lessons learned during February will surely capture the minds of young black men. Throughout the month they are or should be, exposed to men of color who are surgeons, scientists, senators, congressmen, or doctors. Through these men, they can see what’s possible.
My daughter attends a predominately black private school in D.C. For the first time since we’ve been there, they are sponsoring a speaker-series featuring African American men for the month of February. The series was created by a black male teacher in his first year at the school. Last week, the students were visited by Alvin Drew, black astronaut and alumna of the school. His message to the students, “Yes, even you too can go to the moon.”
Isn’t that what we should be telling our children? They can be whatever they want to be. We have to remind them that their history matters and that Harriet Tubman and Medgar Evers sacrificed so much for us. We cannot allow their lives and legacy to just “be there”. We must immerse ourselves in their world, their work, and their contributions to our freedoms of today.
My fear is although most children take history in school, there is not a big enough emphasis on the contribution of black people to the history of this nation. The history books our children use are filled with white leaders. I’m concerned that without parental support or teachers who understand the significance of including lessons of black history, our children may grow up only knowing the importance of white leaders, explorers etc.
When African American children read and learn about all the wonderful people that sacrificed so much for us and when they are exposed to great things they too will feel like they will be the next scientist or inventor or President of the United States.