Black History month is here. In our household, we learn about the contributions that African-Americans have made all year long. However, Black History Month encourages us to be more intentional.
To kick off Black History month at home with my family, I spent some time thinking about introducing them to a topic that they could relate to. They are involved in the arts such as playing piano (all three of them play),
acting and singing,
drawing and sketching, (my middle daughter is actually writing a book, and plans to illustrate her own book)
Then it came to me….the Harlem Renaissance. They were not familiar with that time period or what it represented. We had a great discussion. The Harlem Renaissance was the period in Harlem, NY between 1919 and 1930 that was marked by an outpouring of African-American literature, music, art, and political and philosophical thought. During and after World War I, thousands of blacks moved to Harlem as part of the Northern Migration to seek creative and economic opportunity. It brought together writers, artists and performers, among them entertainers Bill “Bojangles” Robinson,
writer Zora Neal Hurston,
and musician Duke Ellington.
There were many others. The success of the Harlem Renaissance stemmed from the presence of hundreds of talented African-Americans, but also due to Harlem’s civil rights establishment actively promoting black talent as a way of eliminating prejudice and advancing African-Americans.
We talked about the fact that many of these artists paved the way for African American’s in the arts. This movement was special because of what was occurring in the United States during this time. Jim Crow Laws were enacted to enforce racial segregation. Yet many of these artists thrived in spite of the challenges.
My son believes that history in the arts begins with Michael Jackson. What can you expect from a ten-year old who likes to dance? We talked about the fact that Alicia Keys, and John Legend (two of their favorites) both great pianists and artists in their own right, were not the first. At their age, they tend to want to focus on the here and now. I told them, “just wait, when you have your own children, the music that you listen to now will be old school to them.”
The importance of learning about history is to understand what those before us endured against great odds, but still made their mark. Each generation makes the road a little less rocky, exploring unchartered territory for those who come after them, and it’s important to acknowledge them.
My challenge to my kiddos was to think about ways that they could make a difference as they continue to learn, grow and develop. Someday I may see one of my kids names on the marquee, but it is not an expectation. I do expect that whatever they do, they will do it to the best of their ability. They owe it to themselves.
How do you talk to your teens and tweens about history?
Peace and Blessings,