“It’s Michael ‘X’, right?”
“You know, the guy Denzel Washington played in the movie!”
This is an actual conversation I had with a teenager who was asking for assistance with her history project for Black History Month. This was a disconcerting realization that not only is our education system deteriorating, but I, as an influential role in someone’s life, had failed her miserably! It’s Malcom X. While I suppose having watched his biographical film, starring Denzel Washington, was a baby step in the right direction, she still has much to learn.
Black history month is an opportune time for us as a nation to acknowledge the achievements, resiliency and importance black Americans continue to have in our society and to honor the cultural, economical and influential impact they have had on our nation. Our nation has grown and developed over the last four hundred years and it is crucial to honor the rich history and impression black Americans have.
Black history month should never be taboo, and we shouldn’t have the assumption our schools will cover everything our children need to know. It is vital that the next generation understands the hardships, struggles, successes, influences and challenges that black Americans have had and continue to face today. Everyone enjoys hearing the impact Martin Luther King Jr. had on civil rights and his infamous “I Have a Dream” speech. But how many of us can name an invention designed, patented and created by a person of color? How many of us know who Frederick McKinley Jones was? Are any of us comfortable telling tales of slavery and oppression experienced by black Americans in the 1700-1800s? Do we highlight the barriers and successes black Americans faced as they became elected officials, obtained advanced degrees and worked tirelessly to integrate into our once segregated society? Are we leery to discuss current events that are negatively impacting persons of color? These are difficult, and sometimes uncomfortable conversations to have but are important to discuss with our children.
As an international adoption agency, MLJ Adoptions International educates families and communities on the hardships and often painful histories that our waiting/adoptive children have experienced. We understand the importance of training parents on trauma and the long-term effects it can have on children. It is crucial to understand how a child’s history impacts future growth and development. MLJ also trains adoptive parents who are adopting transracially. It is just as important, and maybe even more profound, that we incorporate our international children’s birth heritage and culture into our daily routine. What a wonderful way to celebrate someone’s birth country by sharing a favorite ethnic meal which incorporates dancing, singing and stories that are familiar to our children. Many of our children benefit from having positive role models and/or racial mirrors in their lives; adults who look like them and can provide windows into the ethnic community that surrounds them.
Black history month is just as critical. It is imperative to educate our children on our nation’s history, both the kind and painful parts. Black history month is a time to celebrate accomplishments, successes and triumphs, but also a time to explain about the struggles, segregation and stories shared by our nation’s complicated history. Let’s be a role model and continue to teach and guide our children so they have a more informed understanding of how our nation’s history has impacted its growth, development and future.