Engaging Black History Month with Your Family

As my family sat around the dinner table, I said to my kids, “It’s February 1st – what do we celebrate this month?” Simon, my 7-year-old chimed in, “Black History!”

Let me be honest with you for a moment. Many of the spaces I grew up around – and still find myself today – scoff at Black History Month.

“Why not have White History Month?”
“Why not a WET? (Referencing BET – Black Entertainment Television)

Those remarks, and others like them, might be familiar to your own experience. They represent a negative disposition towards Black History Month and reveal naivete at best or denigration at worst – of the unique plight, perseverance, and contributions of Black people in American history. Black history isn’t a celebration of race. It is the celebration and commemoration of the struggle for life, liberty, and happiness of Black people.

Our lives are enriched by the stories and movements led by our Black brothers and sisters. Here are a few ideas for how you can integrate history, movies, and books into a purposeful family experience this month:

Watch/Read/Listen + Discuss = Learn & Grow

Pop some corn, get out the snacks and watch a movie. After the movie, ask a few simple questions designed to cultivate meaningful conversations. “What surprised you?” “What did you find shocking or sad?” Give some room for these reflections and eventually progress to questions aimed at helping us learn to walk with more humility, understanding, live more justly, and love more deeply. For example:

You have just watched 42, a stirring biopic of Jackie Robinson and his historic integration into Major League Baseball. Ask your family,

“What did think about the scene where Pee Wee Reese is complaining to Branch Rickey about the critical letter he received for playing baseball alongside Jackie Robinson?” (In the scene, Branch Rickey pulls out folders full of death threats and hate directed towards Jackie.)

Follow-up: “What can you learn from that?” (Oftentimes people of different colors or social class backgrounds experience hardships we are unaware of.)

This same concept can be applied to reading a book or visiting a museum.

Movies celebrating the resiliency and accomplishments of Black Americans:

Family Movies and TV Episodes (Use your own judgment for language acceptability)

Hidden Figures

42

Selma

Just Mercy

In the Heat of the Night

The Great Debaters

Remember The Titans

Queen of Katwe

Blackish Juneteenth Episode (Season 4, Episode 1)

Movies geared towards a more mature audience. (Depictions of violence, substance abuse, and language are more suited for PG-13 audiences)

The Hate You Give

When They See Us

King Richard

‘Lee Daniels’ ‘The Butler’

Free State of Jones

Marshall

Hotel Rwanda

Books:

Made by God: Celebrating God’s Gloriously Diverse World By: Tony Evans

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry By: Mildred Taylor

Ruby Bridges Goes to School: My True Story By: Ruby Bridges

Letter from Birmingham Jail By: Martin Luther King Jr.

Museums and Experiences: (I live in Knoxville, so these recommendations are geographically based)

National Civil Rights Museum, Memphis

National Museum of African American Music, Nashville

The King Center, Atlanta

Old Slave Mart Museum, Charleston

Knoxville Bus Tour (Contact me for more information)

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