Approaching Black History Month Through the Lens of Black Educators
Watch the above video of our student presentations — don’t miss the list of content creators you can follow at the very end!
On February 24, 2021, Linden held an All-School gathering to commemorate Black History Month.
Social justice is at the heart of Linden’s program, and this year’s All-School celebration of Black History and Black Joy intentionally disrupted common-place approaches to the topic by inviting the entire school community to acknowledge and reflect upon the complexities of teaching and learning about Black History, and to approach the topic through the lens of Black educators.
Faculty were invited to explore the following two resources:
Teaching During Black History Month, That Special Educator
Dear Teachers: Do’s and Don’ts of Black History Month, ETeaches365: 8
A framework was also created to guide the faculty's approach to the event:
- Black parents often fear Black History Month because well-meaning educators can further traumatize their children when handling it poorly.
- Black history doesn’t start with slavery and end with the Civil Rights Movement.
- Teaching Black history only through the lens of oppression and slavery is itself an act of oppression; you must frame these stories in terms of resilience and resistance in order to capture the humanity of all. You must also frame stories of slavery by emphasizing that people--who had rich lives and histories before enslavement--had their lives altered by enslavement, but were not defined by enslavement.
- Centre stories of Black beauty, joy, and, and success, but don’t ONLY talk about musicians and athletes and not only Martin Luther King Jr and Rosa Parks. Black history encompasses a breadth of stories and perspectives, as all human history does. What is happening now? What is the future?
- Beware the stories of the white saviour. Beware of thinking of yourself as a white saviour.
- Teach Black history all year round.
Important agreements set the stage:
Linden teachers Beth Alexander and Coco Lee structured the event to create learning opportunities that centred Black voices in engaging faculty and students. During the event, participants came together to watch young American Poet Amanda Gorman’s inspiring performance at Joe Biden’s inauguration, and then heard from Black children about what Black History and the Black experience means to them. We reviewed important agreements that we all must make when appreciating the history and culture of Black people. To begin with, it's important to acknowledge that Black History is human history. All of human history involves stories of struggle, oppression, resistance, and joy. Studying Black history is a chance to acknowledge and celebrate the unique stories and contributions Black people have made to society, as well as a chance to commit to creating positive change and advance social justice. Finally, while the burden of providing examples and pieces of history should not solely fall on Black people, the responsibility to listen and reflect on stories being shared lies directly in the hands of non-Black people everywhere.
Group sharing exposed all grades to a variety of Black role models:
Each class had the opportunity to present their research on a prominent Black person which allowed all grades to be exposed to a variety of different figures from the past and present. For example, Grades 3-4 learned about Mari Copeny, a young Black girl in Flint, Michigan raising awareness and funds to get her hometown clean drinking water. Grade 7A dove deeper into Canada’s history to discuss Rosemary Brown, the first Black woman to be elected to the Canadian Provincial Legislature. Brown also went on to be named Ontario Human Rights Commissioner in 1993. Grade 10 students focused on the co-creator of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, Alicia Garza. Students spoke about how the movement came about, and the changes Alicia hopes to make with BLM. Grade 11 students covered Ravyn Wngz, a queer, trans, Afro-Indigenous woman who is a powerful voice among Toronto's Black Liberation and Abolition activists. We also learned about Ekow Nimako, a Ghanaian-Canadian artist whose Afrofuturist sculptures in black lego are monuments to Black history and Black futures. We also heard from the Grade 12s on Canadian activist Desmond Cole, who believes we should look at racism in Canada as its own entity, as opposed to comparing it to racism in the US.
A huge thank you to our stellar event organizers and all faculty and students who helped co-create an important educational event for the community.