I hated black history month as a child. In February as I sat in my brightly colored classroom in an elementary school that was filled with pictures of historical black figures it was not a joyous occasion for me. When my teachers began talking about Harriet Tubman, Martin Luther King Jr, Rosa Parks and other black historical legends I was ashamed and embarrassed. I desperately wanted to sink my brown self down in my chair till I can no longer be seen I wanted to run out of the classroom, and even scream to the top of my lightly pink colored lungs for my teachers to stop talking about black history. With myself being one of the very few black children in my class it was uncomfortable. I could recall children’s eyes nervously taking glances at me throughout the lessons considering I was the minority. I vividly remember hearing lesson after lesson about how blacks were treated and how in times past they were not considered to be of equal value to whites. It was during those moments that I was ashamed to be black. I wondered what it would be like to be white and how life would have been so much easier if I was white with blonde hair and blue eyes. Luckily all that shifted for me.
The older I got the more and more I began to accept and love myself for being black. Now I enjoy reading about historical black figures like Martin Luther King Jr, Oprah Winfrey, Barack Obama, Harriet Tubman, Ruby Bridges, Jackie Robinson, Ronald McNair and other black legends that fought so that we can continue the legacy of fighting for equality. Similarly, I also enjoy immersing myself in autobiographies of those that did not have the same color as myself but were world changers. Looking in the mirror every day and seeing the reflection of my lovely black chocolate colored skin tone smiling back at me brings an inner sense of joy and peace. I have learned awareness, acceptance and to take pride in me being black and embracing my culture as a black woman. My food of preference is soul food my favorite meal is fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, candy yams, collard greens and to top it off a piece of cornbread that tastes as sweet as pound cake. I enjoy listening to hip hop rap music and freestyle battles. (The clean versions of course with a hint of gospel rap). Although I taught myself to embrace and love myself as a black person I believe wholeheartedly that I should have learned to do this in preschool and elementary school. There were no books that were read that symbolized black children embracing their color which would have resonated with me and in return would have given me a healthy perspective on embracing my skin color. As educators, it is important for children to see themselves through books, choosing books with your children in mind is crucial to their development.
I appreciate my teachers formulating lesson plans that were geared in an age-appropriate way towards teaching me about historical black figures. I appreciate them teaching me about blacks and how they fought for unfair laws to be changed and some fought and died just so that we can live. But as I reminisce on the lessons it also unknowingly and unintentionally taught me that being black had a negative connotation. I forgive my elementary teachers who happened to be all white and did not clearly convey the message to the very few black children that being black was beautiful.
As Early Childhood Educators, we should continue to teach black history so that students will never forget the ones before us that fought for equal rights and those that currently continue to fight to this day. However, we should also teach children to love and embrace their race and the color of their skin. Whether it is black, white, those with Albinism, light skinned, dark skinned or whatever color your students identify as. I had to learn to embrace and love the color of my skin when I got older it was not something that was taught. Had I been taught it, I would have developed a thicker skin when certain peers teased me about how my skin color was too dark. There are amazing books on the market that teach loving and embracing skin colors. Such as the ones listed below:
In addition to these amazing reads, I am proud to announce my NEWEST children’s book soon to be released this month entitled Loving the Skin COLOR I’m In A kid-to-kid guide on self-acceptance. This book is designed for children ages 3 and up. This book teaches children the values of embracing and loving their skin color as well as embracing and loving the skin colors of others. This book also teaches children from a place of inclusiveness to embrace skin colors or conditions that may appear to be different such as children with Albinism, children with skin disorders and children with freckles. Nonetheless, it reinforces how much we are the same on the inside.
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