What I Learned from Black History Month This Year: Part I

This past February was a tough one.
There was the loss of a couple of former colleagues at Emerson.
There was the exhaustion of these winter teaching months when spring seems so far away.
There was the prospect of a new job for David that made me question my own career choices.
There was a disturbing, hateful, and divisive presidential primary.
There was a heat wave hinting that our planet is doomed.
There was Black History Month.

In the past at Emerson, Black History Month was marked in a variety of ways. Mrs. Cowart would sing over the PA. Maybe Ms. Randall or Ms. Dawson would make announcements from a moment in Black history. I observed the month from the periphery, conducting my traditional President's Day lesson about our founding fathers and their roles as slave-owners.

But this year, a parent spoke to me early on about doing something to mark the month. Other teachers agreed to curricular lessons about Black scientists, artists, and mathematicians. At our charter board meeting at the start of the month, I proposed a Black History Month assembly, got it on the calendar and figured this committee of teachers could help make it happen. But as the month unfolded, rather than dedicating specific lessons to Black History Month, I was focused on To Kill A Mockingbird and helping our Speech and Debate team prepare for the up-coming tournament we were hosting. Teachers got busy, grades were due, parent conference night loomed, and Black History Month was pushed to the back of all our minds.

As the end of the month neared, I tried to envision how this assembly might look. Who would participate? What would the audience gain? After all, Emerson is a unique school. It is diverse like few schools are. There are Black kids, Latino kids, white kids, Persian kids, Asian kids and mixes of all of these backgrounds. There are kids whose families have been in Los Angeles for generations, and kids who arrived just this past week. So, what could we present at this Black History Month assembly that would educate and inspire and hopefully spur conversations? I wasn't sure, but what came together surprised me.

You can read all about it in my next post.

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