Black history month is a time to celebrate the African American men and women who have made contributions to society. Parents and teachers/schools struggle with time and often only cover a few civil rights icons, scientists, and widely known protesters. My friend Kimberley has made it her mission to educate her children, as well as other children, each February through their #BlackHistorySalutes project. Kim and her daughter Lauren have creatively found a way to highlight multiple African Americans. Throughout the month, Lauren salutes an African American daily by dressing up like them and presenting facts about the person of the day to her school. Carol Robertson, Rosa Parks, Shirley Chisholm, and Pauline Fletcher are just a few of the people they have highlighted over the past two years.I have asked Kim and Lauren to share a little about what motivated them to begin this project and the response they have seen over the years.
How the project began
Kim was having the normal “What did you do today?” talk with Lauren one day after school about three years ago. Kim asked if she learned anything about Black History, and Lauren described what Kim felt like was very little. It was at that moment Kim decided she had to take on the task of teaching her child. In Kim’s words, “Teachers are not responsible for 100% of my child’s education. We have to take responsibility as their parents to teach them and not rely on someone else.”
Her kids attend a predominately white school, and she wanted them to learn more about Black History. Kim added, “I want them to feel good about themselves, loving their skin color, body shape, hair, etc. and know they are more than just descendants of slaves. In addition to teaching my kids, I want other kids to learn.”
Preparations for Black History Month
Over the past few years, Kim did everything. She would select the person to highlight, write facts about them, and search for the clothing/props that they were going to use. This year, Lauren has been part of the full process. Lauren has been able to include people she read about in a book or that she’s heard stories of.
In order to achieve some of the looks, Kim has borrowed items from neighbors, purchased items from Amazon, and repurposed Halloween costumes. For instance, she used her son’s Buzz Lightyear costume to achieve an astronaut look one year.
When asked if Lauren and Kim had seen any results they did not expect, they said this:
Lauren: “People saying they love it and want me to do it over and over again.”
Kim: “Yes, I didn’t expect to learn so many facts myself. In teaching the kids, I’ve also learned about African American contributions to places in Birmingham. In addition, we’ve received so much LOVE. Everyone has been supportive and encouraging. This has given Lauren a sense of pride and accomplishment. Now she writes about the people, stands in front of the class, and shares. Lauren’s teachers are participating, adding books, slide shows, and other resources within the classroom.”
Kim: “Everyone has been receptive and we have not received any negative responses.”
Suggestions for others
If you would like to pay tribute to African Americans during Black History Month, Kim has this advice:
Kim: “Go for it! You’re in control and it’s your opportunity to educate your children. You don’t have to dress up, but you can learn about someone every day. There are so many resources you can use. I found a deck of cards with a different African American person on each card (52). There shouldn’t be any reservations about education. This has been a commitment, but it’s worth it.”
This year Kim has included her son Dillion, and you can follow their journey through #BlackHistorySalutes on both Facebook and Instagram.