Celebrating Black History Month with Your Family

Black family playing on the beach.
Photo by Larry Crayton on Unsplash

By Megan McQueen

February is a time to celebrate Black history and heritage. Of course, Black history and culture is to be appreciated all times of the year, but we need to take time to specifically acknowledge Black history until we end white-centered perspectives. A shared history provides us with a complete picture of ourselves rather than just learning about a piece of our past. As a parent and educator, I have loved learning alongside the children I’ve worked with and parented. Their excitement is contagious and gives me hope.

Here are some strategies to support you and your child(ren) on your journey to greater understanding: 

Educate Yourself: Much of our formal education leaves out Black history. Inclusive history is fascinating. Use this month to learn something new and continue that curiosity throughout the year! Watch videos, read books, and listen to podcasts. Consider seeking out Black organizations online or locally that you can join to both learn from and expand your circle of friends. Despite the many challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, the need to stay connected (despite stay-at-home restrictions) has opened up new opportunities to access resources and participate in community opportunities virtually. 

Celebrate Black Joy: There are terrible stories that we need to learn about to understand our history and how our society is in the place it is. Especially when talking with children about Black history, be sure to share joy, not just trauma. Black history and culture are much more than slavery and the civil rights movement. Read books with Black characters living their lives, learn about Black people with broad impacts, watch TV shows and movies, and be sure that your social media feeds reflect Black joy as well. 

Build Empathy: Sharing Black history is an opportunity for your child to learn more about themselves and others. Teaching Tolerance has many practical suggestions for talking with children about race. Here are some ideas that we can implement: For older children, spark thoughtful conversations by asking questions such as, “What does it feel like to be criticized because of your identity?” “How does privilege shape the lives of individuals and groups?” You may ask your younger kids, “How can I learn more about other people?” or “How am I the same as other people? How am I different from other people?”

Be Anti-Racist Together: With your child(ren), take stock of the books, movies, dolls, books, and social media consumed in your house. How can you diversify your shelves? Talk about why it is important to include multiple perspectives. Simran Noor, an equity strategist, recommends asking older white children, “How do you benefit from white supremacy as a white teenager?” or ”How might your experience be different from your Black peer with the police, for example?” Model and talk through times when you interrupt racism. When my children discussed a racial event at school, we talked at home about how they can interrupt racist comments they might hear. We brainstormed ideas for what they could say such as, “I don’t think that’s funny,” or “That could be hurtful,” and “I’m going to interrupt you right there…” We need to teach our children how to be anti-racist and be open to learning from them. 

Let’s use Black History Month as a time to reflect on our painful history, celebrate the outstanding contributions of Black people, and inspire a more equitable future.

Picture books:

Middle Grade/Young Adults:

Adults:

Megan McQueen is a warmhearted teacher, coach, consultant, and writer. She grounds her work in empathetic education, importing a strong sense of community and social skills to those with which she works. Megan prioritizes emotional learning and problem solving skills. When not at work, she is most likely playing with her husband, two children, and pup.

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