By Kiara Harlow
Happy Black History Month! I’m Kiara, mom to three boys, ages 6, 4, and 3. I’m a lawyer turned stay-at-home mom with a passion for joyous living and making everyday magic. February is extra special in our house because we get to celebrate Black History Month! If you have a desire to celebrate diversity but can’t quite figure out how, here’s what I’m focusing on with my kids this month:
Talking to children about race is something that happens fairly often in our house because as a mother of three Black sons, I don’t have the luxury of waiting it out. But my touchstones are always to speak plainly, honestly, and with humility (calling on resources when I don’t have the answers.) And I always draw fortitude by reminding myself that the reason I am willing to have awkward conversations is because I desire to make a better world for our children.
Reading Books with Black Characters
Every book we get from the library in February will have a Black protagonist. My oldest son loves non-fiction sports profiles and anything Steph Curry, so he’s easy to please. My younger two are big fans of the Princess Cupcake Jones series but are always eager for new material. I’ve found that the key to keep their attention and excitement growing is to select books that have Black faces, but not necessarily what adults think of as “Black stories.” Think less “Civil Rights Movement” and more Amazing Grace and I Am Every Good Thing.
I’ve found that my boys love to see characters who look like them in the context of the activities they enjoy already—playing soccer, riding bikes, failing then trying again, exploring nature. At this age, I want to meet them where they are. And thankfully, there are so many Black children’s books to choose from now, unlike when I was a child.
Play with Historical Purpose
Research shows that by age 3, children use race as a factor in selecting playmates. And if raising the next generation to be more just and inclusive than previous ones is our goal, then we have to talk to children in their language—play. Here are a few things we’ll be giving a try:
Play Red Light, Green Light and discuss how Garrett Morgan was a Black inventor who patented the 3-position traffic signal
Play a game of Telephone and discuss Granville T. Woods. He was the first Black mechanical and electrical engineer after the Civil War. He held over 60 patents in the U.S., many in the area of the telephone. He was best known for a system he created for the railroad to alert the engineer as to how close his train was to others
Play Doctor and discuss Dr. Patricia Bath, the first Black ophthalmologist and the first Black woman doctor to receive a medical patent (it was for a device to treat cataracts.)
Dance to gospel, jazz, rock and roll, reggae, or hip hop and discuss how those genres of music were created by Black people from around the world and how culture influences music.
Get out on the town
We’ll also be checking out the latest exhibit at the Gantt Museum, reading about the history of Charlotte as we ride the streetcar through the city, attending Family Storytime on Africa at ImaginOn, and trying our hands at a Black history-themed Rookie Science at the Pineville Library. Black History Month is a great time to actively set goals for your family around diversity and inclusion and take meaningful, approachable steps to making the world a better place. I hope we bump into you around town this month!