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Our Heritage and History Are Too Large To Be Contained In Just One Month

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    EL Education

Traditionally, Black History Month is a time to reflect upon, acknowledge and honor Black leaders who significantly changed and influenced America’s history. Just as it is important to honor those who came before us, it is just as necessary to acknowledge and spotlight those who are leaders today. During Black History Month, and throughout the year, we will profile a few of the many Black leaders and EL Education partners who are making waves in education. This blog post is a part of a series.

In 1926 Dr. Carter G. Woodson started Black History Week which grew into Black History Month in order to bring awareness and to honor the contributions of African Americans. He felt that, at that time, African Americans were underrepresented in curricula and in schools across America. He thought of this as a way to promote African American History and to share our stories with the world.

Sadly, nearly 100 hundred years later, Black History Month, which has been widely celebrated within the Black Community for many years, has been slow to be acknowledged by mainstream America. Just in the past few years, more companies and organizations have started to recognize and celebrate this time of the year. For example, we’ve seen national campaigns like, “Black Beyond Measure” (Target), “365Black” (McDonald’s), #LoveToSeeit (Twitter). Ice cream moguls Ben & Jerry have even released Black History ice cream flavors “Justice ReMix’d” and most recently, “Black Lives Matter.” All of these measures have helped to shine a light on the many contributions that Black communities have made to this great nation. But we can’t stop there. It is not good enough for us as educators to pause our normal course of instruction and give something as important as Black history an hour-long program on a few days of the year.

"Our heritage and our history are too large to be contained in just one month."

Tawana Jordan , Detroit Public Schools Community District Teacher, 2020 Klingenstein Teacher Award Recipient

Our heritage and our history are too large to be contained in just one month. It does not stop being an important part of students’ educational development when the month ends, especially for our Black students and our students who are not exposed to Black culture in real life. It should not be taught in isolation. Instead it should be woven into the fabric of the American education system, because Black History is American History. The two truly cannot be separated from each other without ripping apart the truth. Today, Black people are still working to complete the dreams of our ancestors. We cannot do that in isolation from the rest of the country. We must all learn to be proud and inclusive, especially in education.

Imagine if we started students young with the knowledge that all racial groups in America have played an important role in building this county and that we all have a history that we should be proud of. Imagine if every month students learned about all cultures and backgrounds and not just read stories about them, but were taught to value the diversity that connects us all.

Maybe if we instill these values early enough in our children, then one group of people wouldn’t feel like other groups don’t deserve the same rights and opportunities as them. Maybe instead of Black people and people of color being treated as if we don’t belong, we would be treated more like we are equal owners in a corporation of equality. Perhaps then Black people wouldn’t have to demand and march and plead for the same justice that is given to others so freely. We wouldn’t have to pause to celebrate our accomplishments, but would be able to celebrate them everyday. Not as a “separate but equal” act but as something we accomplish together as Americas.

Almost 100 years later, would Dr. Carter G. Woodson be proud of how Black History Month has grown? Or would he be saddened by the fact that it is still needed today? If Black History was always honored and celebrated and the rights of the Black community were always protected, we wouldn’t need a month to acknowledge the community. We don’t stop being proud of our heritage when Black History month is over. We don’t stop needing justice for members of the Black community when Black History month is over.

A graduate of Alabama State University (HBCU) in Montgomery, Alabama and Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan,Tawana Jordan has been a teacher in Detroit Public School Community District for twenty-four years. Tawana is EL Education’s Klingenstein Teacher Award of 2020, dedicated to providing students with a safe and enriching learning environment and inspiring students and teachers to become the best versions of themselves.

*EL Education is proud to host diverse voices and offer a platform for dialogue on topics impacting educators and students. Views of guest bloggers are their own and may differ from the views of EL Education.