Challenge 67: Take Time to Teach Black History

Early in elementary school I didn’t like seeing newsreels of black folks, my folks, being hosed with water and hit with fists and hateful words. This time made me sad and mad that white folks could hate black folks because they weren’t white, that laws supported and encouraged more hate and my people had to fight for basic God-given rights that humans had the nerve to try to alter. I can now put my feelings into words, but when I was a child, I just knew how I felt. Though my well-meaning teachers, who taught us black history beyond Black History Month, would often seek to end the late 20th century Civil Rights Movement segment on a high note by having us sing “We Shall Overcome,” my angst would remain. I could not see any overcoming, only hating and fighting, and I was not moved. The only reason I didn’t harbor my angst because I lived in a home and attended schools that celebrated black history. As a result, I never questioned if black was beautiful. I simply knew that it was because my daddy said so.
My caramel-colored daddy with the eternal afro was a history professor and made sure my siblings and I knew the history he taught his students. And he applauded Mrs. Tinsley, my 4th grade teacher, who made sure we knew about African kings and queens and other great figures that supplemented his teachings on people like Renaissance man Paul Robeson, blues singer Bessie Smith, singer and actress Ethel Waters and surgeon Daniel Hale Williams. Learning about these black contributions to the world had me reading on my own to find out more. Though my mom would often say, “People are people are people,” her way of expressing that skin color shouldn’t color our love or create hate toward a certain group of people, my daddy held firm to his hatred for systemic racism, which he often targeted toward white people. I know my mom’s ability to see people and not just race helped to curb my black militant leaning, but I have never shirked my vocal or physical expression of being black and proud.

I have taken for granted my long-time knowledge and feelings and naturally have shared with my sons, but last week, when reading a news article my 11-year-old said he didn’t know who the Tuskegee Airmen were, I felt I had failed in my teaching. I know that at 11 my oldest son may not know everything that I know about black history, but I have to be more intentional about imparting this knowledge to him. I have tried to walk the fine line of truth with hate and pride on either side. I have wanted him and his brothers to know the history, its glory and goriness, without causing them to fall into deep pride or hate. Not always knowing how to do that has caused me to not teach as aggressively as I believe I should. I have not tapped into the greatest power in the universe—God in me—for direction on this. After seeing I needed help, I have asked the Holy Spirit to help me teach my sons what they need to learn, how they need to learn it and when they need to learn it. I will use to anchor my black history lessons my perpetual teaching that from the blood of one man came all nations of men so they know greatness resides in us all and, because of the fall of man, sin resides in us all (Acts 17:24-26; Genesis 3). I know to love them is to teach them and that includes black history, not just in February, Black History Month in the United States, but always.

As my daddy would say to his all white classes where students would lament about having to learn about blacks and Native Americans, “When are we going to get to American history?”: “Black history is American history” and we know that it is also world history. History is the stories of all peoples. Therefore, we all need to know black history for our better individual and collective selves. There is no truth and love in erasure for comfort’s sake, only deception, oppression and delusion. No one can fully live without trying to fully love, and teaching—then living—the truth helps us to do that.

Take a Risk Challenge: Go beyond your comfort zone and teach black history to someone else. If you need to begin with you, teach yourself so you can teach another. Teaching history of a consistently marginalized people is a radical act of love.

Challenge 18: Celebrate Blackness

Oscar Micheaux

Words have power. That we all know. But the real power, most times, is the action that backs up those words. In last week’s post I challenged us to renounce black hate, turning away from any way that we “told black to get back,” our way of distancing ourselves from the blackness God created: the people, characteristics and other areas associated with black peopl I hope that you searched your heart for God to show you what black hatred was there and you renounced what He showed you. Today I challenge you to take the next step.

You can celebrate Black History Month in your own space by this week creating new black history in your own life. I want you to replace whatever you renounced with some healthy action without being condescending, going overboard or in some other way being extreme. For instance, don’t approach the only black person that you work with that you rarely speak to and say something like “I just think all black people are beautiful, especially their kinky hair” or redecorating your house with all black artifacts or replacing your wardrobe with Afrocentric clothing. You know what God had you to renounce. He will show you what to reasonably do instead.

Perhaps you are white and are led to send a note of encouragement to a black person you know who’s having a rough season; perhaps you’re a black mother who decides not to straighten your daughter’s hair; or you have moved from the ghetto but God is leading you to pour back into that neighborhood by spending time with some of the people or consistently helping to physically rehabilitate that area. Perhaps you have to take a black history course or watch Oscar Micheaux movies and share what you learn with others or maybe God wants you to be prayer partners with someone you would not choose to be close with.

Take a Risk Challenge: Get before the Lord and let Him show you how to celebrate blackness in a sincere way.

My One Thousand Gifts List

Nate styling my hair to make me a “princess” and standing back to examine his work
Popping up out of sleep and knowing that God had me awake with a sense of urgency to have time to commune with Him before my day of ministry
An unexpected and edifying call from Latitia
The EACH resource fair (my presenting a poem there and interviewing people to chronicle the EACH story)
Hanging at the tennis courts seeing Joshua with lessons, Nathaniel and Justus play and Flynn hitting balls
Flynn offering and going to take Jan food for me
Waking up early enough to not feel rushed to get to church
Getting to church on time
Reading most of my Google parenting alerts
Sunny blue skies with an occasional breeze
Dianna Hobbs’ blog post on spiritual rest
Justus climbing on the couch to sit next to me while eating his apple and occasionally sighing satisfied
Having a grand outlook for the day
Not being fretful about working 6 ½ hours on my blog, running late to pick up Joshua, not getting a shower, not finding Nate’s shoes and my post not being delivered
An acquisitions editor from Logos Digital Publishing contacting me about being interested in possibly publishing my book
A publicist from Moody Publishers contacting me to review on my blog one of their books
God sparing Justus’ life after he fell in the bathtub of water
My friend getting a job developing programming for a television station and considering having me do some work with him