The celebration of Black History Month dates back to Carter G. Woodson, a historian who proposed we set aside time to acknowledge the accomplishments of Black folks. Black history month began as a week in 1926 however, in 1995 the first Black woman elected to Parliament, Jean Augustine, officially pushed for it to be recognized as a month long celebration in February. It was not until 2008 that this was recognized by the Canadian senate after being brought forth by the first Black man appointed, senator Donald Oliver.
Dr. Carter G Woodson
While there is great celebration and pride to be had in these accomplishments, the significance of Black History Month lies in the absence of Black history, accomplishments, and celebrations in the other remaining eleven months. Celebrating Black History Month is important and it is just as important to create the opportunity to include the Black experience all year around.
In a very blatant anti-Black climate, as educators, it is important to prioritize ways to connect Black, Indigenous, and racialized students to their history consistently. It is vital to connect all students to this history as a way of building community in the classroom and moving past single stories about what the past has been and what the future may hold.
Being critical about race requires a lot of time and challenges, to make this easier we have created:
5 Questions to Encourage Reflection:
1. Is our educational approach multicultural if my school/class still centres white holidays, culture, and history as the benchmark?
2. Am I making assumptions about students' backgrounds without the knowledge or experience required?
3. Am I ignoring race in my classroom by not including lesson plans, activities, and materials that not only include but support Black students?
4. Am I aware of my limits as an educator when it comes to matters of race and am I doing something about it?
5. Am I paying attention to the historical and ongoing trauma caused by schools towards Black, Indigenous, and racialized students?
5 Tips For Integrating Black History Month Into Your Everyday Classroom:
1. Practice what you preach. If you don’t know, read: Challenge yourself to read a book about anti-Black racism.
2. You may not be the right person but assume you are the ONLY person: As their teacher it is your responsibility to be comfortable with including and discussing race.
3. Representation Matters: When choosing classroom materials (books, articles, topics, etc.) make a conscious effort to include a generous amount of Black, Indigenous, Racialized materials.
4. Don’t assume: It can cause a lot of harm to students if you make assumptions or judgements about their experiences. Ask questions, be open to learning from them and with them. It is okay to not have all the answers.
5. Be compassionate: Understand that your experience is not their experience and their experience is not yours. Find ways to connect, not avoid.