In my last blog post, I provided some history on how Black History Month (BHM) came to be and three ways you can honor BHM with your students. In this blog post, I'll provide three things to keep in mind during your BHM celebrations to avoid doing harm.
- Committing cultural appropriation: Cultural appropriation occurs when members a dominant group mock, mimic, adopt, or steal aspects of the cultural identities of less powerful groups. This includes, but is not limited to, historically/culturally significant aspects of dress, speaking, hairstyling, art, and other practices.
- If you are unsure about something, consider the following questions:
- How respectful is this to African American/Black cultures?
- "Why am I doing this?" Do I have a genuine investment in it, or is it trendy? How can I further my own knowledge about this? Can I solicit the expertise of others to help execute this lesson/project?
- What is the source of the idea or artifact? Where, and with whom, did it originate? Are they given credit for their contribution?
- Shrinking Heroes: What other, perhaps lesser known, leaders exist other than Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.? Additionally, it is important to highlight to the contributions of those who were/are multiply marginalized, such as women leaders or LGBTQ pioneers.
- Doing nothing: Honoring and celebrating BHM is a treat for everyone! African American and Black histories are a vital part of U.S. history. Futher, consider how you can incorporate the importance of these legacies all year, not just in February.
Dr. Sierra Austin is a graduate of the Department of Women's and Gender Studies at The Ohio State University, with a focus on race and social justice. Sierra's research (done in our member district Columbus City Schools), activism, work focused on education equity and prioritizes operationalizing intersectional approaches to social change. She offers professional development through the ESC focused on equity, consultation, and community workshops.
Email Sierra to see how she can help support your school or district!