There are so many great ways to celebrate Black History Month in February and recognize the huge contributions made throughout history by Black men and women. In addition to heading out to events planned every year in Chicago and the suburbs, here are three different ways to encourage the kids to explore Black history.
A story about being Black in America
See Chicagoan Jerrell L. Henderson’s performance of “I Am the Bear,” based on his experience being racially profiled by police on Chicago’s North Shore on a wintery morning walk. Described as an allegory of what it means to be Black in America, it is part of the Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival’s free Neighborhood Tour Jan. 20-23 in five Chicago neighborhoods, including the Segundo Ruiz Belvis Cultural Center in Hermosa, Art on Sedgwick in Old Town, Navy Pier’s Crystal Garden, National Museum of Mexican Art in Pilsen and 345 Art Gallery in Humboldt Park. The piece is thought-provoking, but not scary.
Dolls that embrace diversity, break barriers
Chicagoan Kristel Bell wants girls to have dolls that look like them and inspire them. So she’s created a line of dolls to encourage them to embrace the world of science, technology, engineering and math. Her inventory sold out quickly and she plans to have Codie The Coder, Astro the Astronaut, Vera the Vet and Maria the Mathemagician in stock again in February.
“There is definitely a lot of under-representation of girls in powerful positions and girls of diverse backgrounds in these powerful positions. We need to start showing our kids at an early age, ‘You can be this, you can be anything you put your mind to. You aren’t limited to being a princess, which you likely won’t be when you grow up,'” says Bell, the founder of the charity Black Girls Movement.
Stories about Black heroes and sheroes
Judith Davis and her son have taken up the task of telling fascinating unsung stories of Black figures in history who are especially interesting to kids. They started at the Fountaindale Public Library in Bolingbrook until the pandemic stopped in-person sessions, then turned to sharing the stories through their nonprofit’s YouTube channel. Now, The Third Institute has published a book through Amazon, The Roots Manual: A Hero and Shero Exploration, to get the stories into the hands of as many kids as possible, she says. The goal, she says, is to inspire confidence in children through real history.
“It’s a long time coming to get this far and see so many kids be engaged and excited about these incredible stories that somehow have just gotten lost,” Davis says.
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