Saturday, February 12, 2011

Brown History for Kids...The Harlem Renaissance

designed by Royal Amethyst LLC
 In the world of my 4 year old son, Black people are brown and White people are peach.  If you follow me on Twitter, you may have read that he told me he wanted to celebrate Brown history, not Black History because his skin is brown.  Teaching our history clearly starts at an early age.

You may recall from my facebook post that I am the chair of Black History month at my daughter's public school.  After it being a non-event last year, I volunteered myself to ensure that a meaningful celebration of our culture took place.

For Black History Month, students are often given bits and pieces of information without context.  One day learning about Dr. King, the next Harriet Tubman and the next Jackie Robinson with no understanding of how they relate or the historical timeline or social conditions that existed at the time that they lived.  To counteract that, I wanted to take a more integrated approach enabling children to learn in a more wholistic fashion making a greater impact.  

So as I began to make my plans, my first step was to choose a theme: The Harlem Renaissance

Taking a comprehensive approach gave me the platform to present the history, geography, philosophy and artistic elements that emerged in addition to the key figures of the era.  

In a school that is 50% African American and 50% White, it was also important to me to celebrate the brilliance, creativity and success of Black people.  I remember being horrified when my preschooler came home and blurted out, "Martin Luther King was shot".  Not that he was factually incorrect, but what a harsh way for a 3 year old to learn about one of our greatest leaders.  Clearly his legacy can be broken down in some other manner that children can grasp at that young age.  The message that Black folks were college educated, created art forms like Jazz, were wealthy and accomplished and not only slaves was critical to expanding the knowledge of these elementary school children.

So what are we doing?  I'm glad you asked:)

Each week takes an element of the Harlem Renaissance (history/geography, arts, key figures) and breaks it into small chunks of information.  We share the information daily during morning announcements and send a summary home in a weekly newsletter so families can share in the learning and reinforce the information. 

Students get to test what they have learned in the Black History Challenge.  Each perfect score gains the student a ticket into raffle with phenomenal prizes such as a Family Membership to the Studio Museum in Harlem and a gift certificate to the renowned Hue-Man Bookstore & Cafe in Harlem

Our grand finale is our school wide assembly featuring Victoria Bond and T.R Simon, authors of the acclaimed book Zora and Me and award winning illustrator Bryan Collier  (Uptown, Visiting Langston and Doo-Wop Pop).  The students themselves will also take center stage taking us back to the Savoy with the Jitterbug, reciting Langston's poems, discussing the art of Romare Bearden and singing Lift Evry Voice to name a few.

It is my hope that after all is said and done, we will have made a positive impact, expanded the students' body of knowledge an left an indelible imprint of the souls of Black folk.  

How is your child(ren)'s school celebrating Black History Month?

Special thanks to my co-chairman and Chocolate Chip mom, Tara Lattimer-Wilson, Royale Amethyst LLC for the beautiful banner and Marva Allen of Hue-Man Bookstore and Cafe for helping turn my vision into reality.

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