Last night for movie night, Samantha and the girls and I gathered around and watched the documentary, Kevin Hart’s Guide to Black History. It was our second time watching it (we saw it a few years ago when it first came out). Both times our family loved it. I particularly enjoyed pausing it (as I tend to do during movies) to make commentary and ask questions. For example, when the girls learned that Josephine Baker was Beyonce before Beyonce, they were like whaattt?! Or my favorite, the story of Robert Smalls who went from slave to congressman in the south during reconstruction. We have been for the entirety of our time here in this country, a prolific people full of strength, courage, and wisdom.
I was actually surprised how into it the girls seemed to be. Riley, my oldest tends to not really enjoy history, but the cool facts that Kevin’s show pointed out had her attention. Olivia, who loves history, was right with me soaking up all the content. Throughout the show, our conversation would inevitably veer towards, this is amazing…how come we didn’t know this before? Even though we’ve seen this exact same documentary before, some of it still felt like new information. Then, of course there were moments where like Kevin, we rolled our eyes at the same old stories. Black History is so often reduced to slavery, George Washington Carver, and Dr. King. It’s refreshing to expand our understanding of what the contributions of black people has been both to American culture and the world at large.
As usual, it got me thinking about the implications of what we teach our kids and how we teach them about history. Clearly, an accurate understanding of American history isn’t complete without broadening the narratives to explain the role of black and brown and indigenous populations in this country. Why this is a debate says more about those who want to maintain a narrow perspective, than those who want to create a more inclusive one. I’m looking at you all those who are opposed to initiatives like the 1619 project for fear that your sanitized and idealistic image of America will be tarnished.
So, a lot of the work is left up to parents to fill in the gaps. In our house it begins with perspective taking. We want our girls to see themselves in the world around them, but not as if the entire world is all about them. That’s a delicate balance. It requires exposure to text and literature featuring black girl magic, and it also requires exposing them to the stories of those who’s life experiences are totally different. What they often find in first better appreciating and understanding their own identity, is that they’re better positioned to embrace and accept the uniqueness of others. And that to me is the whole point of celebrating black history.