Teaching Black History Must Start at Home

When I came across a tweet about the Miami Police Department’s unveiling of a designed patrol car in honor of Black History Month, my immediate thought was that this is no different than the Black Lives Matter mural being painted on the street leading to the White House or House Democrats taking a knee, in honor of George Floyd, while adorning kente cloths around their necks. 

As nice as this gesture is from the police department, that’s not the type of allyship we need right now. The performative gesture means absolutely nothing when teachers  in Florida can get thrown in jail for up to five years and face a $5,000 fine for teaching the same Black history that is being honored on that patrol car.

So, in America, the message still remains that Black history is worthy enough to be commodified, celebrated, appropriated and paraded on cars but not worthy enough to be taught in schools? 

America only loves the colors of red, black and green when it translates to the bloody (red) deaths of Black folks and the capitalization commodification (green) of our culture and historical trauma.  That’s still the reality and will continue to be the reality for as long as I’m living.  

Finding Our Children’s Curiosity

It’s for this reason that we can’t wait for politicians and school districts to affirm what we already know about Black history and the positive impact that it has on all children.

Last night, my son Thaddeus and I had a chance to read Ernest Crim III’s new book, “The ABCs of Affirming Black History” and it was a special experience, being able to learn about so many influential Black historical figures with him.

Of course, he recognized Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks right away in the book (hmmm….I wonder why?). But what was so cool about the experience was that he was genuinely curious about the other figures who we rarely hear about in school. Every “What did he/she invent?” and “Who is he/she?” question led to a Google search and deep dive for more information!  

The curiosity that Thaddeus expressed is the same curiosity that so many Black children have about the historical greatness of Black people in America and beyond.  Regardless of the sociopolitical climate we find ourselves in, we still have a responsibility to feed that curiosity with the films, documentaries, books, scholars and other resources we have at our disposal.  Thanks to social media, these learning resources are in abundance and easily accessible if we choose to search for them.

At a time where Black history continues to be whitewashed and erased from our curriculum, our sense of urgency to combat this trend should be at an all-time high!  In the end, education knows no bounds.  Education can happen anywhere and not just within the brick and mortar of our schools. Anti-CRT politicians and pundits may have the power to legislate how we teach Black history in schools but they can’t police our ability to educate within our homes and communities.

Let’s all take it upon ourselves to expose our children to Black history in any way that we can!  Rather than provide you all with an exhaustive list of Black History learning resources, I want to challenge you to take the initiative and search for these resources on your own. Let’s…

  • Order and read the books
  • Watch those films and documentaries
  • Listen to those podcasts
  • Learn from scholars, subject matter experts and social media influencers who specialize in Black history
  • Determine how you will use your newfound knowledge to help fight against the inequities and systemic barriers that marginalize Black folks within your community and beyond. 

 Our key to intellectual freedom has always lived in these resources.  Let’s take advantage of what’s out there and do what’s right for our children.

We can do this! 

Please also read 28 Essential Black History Books Educators Need to Read

Kwame Sarfo-Mensah
Kwame Sarfo-Mensah is the founder of Identity Talk Consulting, LLC., an independent educational consulting firm that provides professional development and consulting services globally to educators who desire to enhance their instructional practices and reach their utmost potential in the classroom. He is the author of two books, "Shaping the Teacher Identity: 8 Lessons That Will Help Define the ...

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