Even though Black History Month is just four weeks out of the year, teaching the next generation about black history is a full-time, year-round commitment for parents. Conversations about equality between adults and young people are vital. These moments—big and small—have the power to positively impact the future for generations to come. It's up to parents to provide the first answers that shape how children view this important subject.
"The conversation was inevitable," says Ceta Walters, a mom of two from Chicago. So how do Walters and other women broach this conversation with their little ones? They teach their children to honor their beautiful skin, read books that tell the stories of black pioneers and historical figures, and visit African-American museums, all while maintaining an ongoing discussion about black history. As one New York mom, LaTonya Yvette, so aptly puts it, "Black history isn't taught just in love or color-blindness, but it is taught in honest conversations all parents should participate in." Here's how seven moms have honest conversations and impactful experiences with their children.
Ceta Walters is a mom of two from Chicago. Her blog, Clark and Stone (named after her two sons), is where she expresses her creativity and shares about finding a balance between being a mother and maintaining her passions outside of that role. For her, teaching black history to her boys is about leading by example. "Clark and Stone were born during the time President Barack Obama was in office," she explains. "As Clark approached kindergarten, I knew it was important to start sharing the triumphs and struggles of black people in the world.
I chose music to begin their life lessons. I play Stevie Wonder's 'Happy Birthday' song every year to commemorate his birthday, and we have a dance party. For my young children, it's how I teach them and not what I teach them."
She uses her kids' love of dance and sports to segue into deeper conversations. A Stevie Wonder song led to her introduction of Martin Luther King Jr. to her children, and baseball allowed her to start a conversation about Jackie Robinson. "It's important that I share their black history so they know how far we've come and how far we still have to go. It's also important for my boys to appreciate everyone and their differences. School isn't where they see and experience diversity. It's in our lives.
Our family and our friends are very representative of the world. I can only lead and teach them by example. They are learning to be proud of who they are because I am. They are learning to love and respect the differences in people around them because I do."
Erica Dickerson is a Los Angeles mother who runs Beautyblender with her own mom, who is the founder of the beauty company. She, like Walters, believes in teaching through her own actions. "I teach my daughter black history not only by honoring her beautiful black skin and beautiful thick hair but also by putting it into practice," she says. Dickerson accomplishes this by introducing her little one to profound leaders at a young age.
"For Halloween one year, we dressed up as Black Panthers, and although she was young, she was excited to participate in something united together. Showing her images of black leaders is something I just recently started, and she is slowly beginning to identify important historical black leaders, which means everything to me," she explains. "I fully encourage parents to start planting these seeds as young as possible so our kids grow up believing in their magic."
For fashion blogger Sacorae Hopson, teaching black history to the next generation is something she's already planning for, even though her son Ezra is just 1 year old. "I would love to take him to the library and pick out books of Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks and show him all the African-Americans who made a difference in our country," she says. "I can take him to the African American Museum, which highlights the importance of what they served."
Stylist, lifestyle blogger, and mother of two LaTonya Yvette makes black history a priority in her house. The New Yorker explains the importance of creating an ongoing conversation about the subject with her children, who are biracial, and how she teaches them that the fight for equality is continuous.
"My daughter almost immediately differentiated her father's color from hers when she was just 2, so it has been an ongoing conversation. For me, it's really important to let my daughter know that the advancement and need for equality for black people isn't something in the past, curried in history, and celebrated in one month. It's something to be celebrated and fought for every single day—in large and micro ways. Black history isn't taught just in love or color-blindness, but it's taught in honest conversations all parents should participate in."
Christina De Silva
Christina De Silva is a New York mom working to raise her son to be proud of who he is. She does this by teaching him about his ancestors and fostering in him an appreciation of what those who came before him have created. "It's of great importance to teach my son about the history of our ancestors. I want to raise a young boy who understands where he's come from so he can appreciate where we are today," says De Silva.
She quotes Marcus Garvey, a historical figure who once said, "The black skin is not a badge of shame but rather a glorious symbol of national greatness." "My son will grow up to embody and exude just that," she says. "He will understand the power instilled in black people and how channeling that can ultimately change his generation for better."
Nyja Richardson is the woman behind the blog Mom's Epiphany. The New York mother focuses on teaching black history to her son year-round through positive affirmations, educational books, and museum trips. "Black History Month is just 28 days, but for us, it's the entire year. Every day we start with affirmations saying how we love our skin and [are] proud of our African descent. We read books that glorify black pioneers and often visit African-American museums. It's important to instill black history in the youth so they can see how far we came but also realize how much further we need to go."
Stephanie Taylor Jackson
Fashion and lifestyle blogger Stephanie Taylor Jackson is a mom of two who hopes to educate her sons about black history so they grow up feeling proud and special. "As a mother raising young black men, the topic of race is something that we try to keep in constant conversation in our household. I never want to sugarcoat the realities of our society, and I certainly don't want there to be any 'surprises' when they go to school," she shares.
"My husband and I work hard to ensure that our children are educated and aware of how important our history is, especially during Black History Month. I want my children to be PROUD to be black. We often go around the table and share what we love about ourselves because I need them to know how special they truly are."
Jackson also uses historical figures to teach her sons about black history and explain why these conversations still are necessary today. "During Black History Month, we talk about important figures in history; we read about them, write about them, and celebrate them for helping to bring us to where we are today. We are in a time when, now more than ever, we have to stand up against injustice and be a voice for the voiceless. I am teaching my children to always, no matter what, stand up for what is right and to choose love."
This February signifies Black History Month, but the conversation about black history and equality, in general, should not be limited to a single time of year. We can all take note of how these moms are teaching black history to their children and make it a point to continue or begin a discussion on the subject with the young people in our own lives moving forward.