The folks at Lee & Low Books surveyed authors and illustrators of color. Their questions: What person best represents the spirit of Black History Month? And how does your family celebrate? Here are my thoughts (read my, and all the comments at the Lee & Low website):
As a child, my mother made sure we learned about our black history. As a family, we'd attend events at a community cultural center that promoted African and African-American history. We'd play games like Mancala, an African marble game, or we'd color and decorate pictures of African American historical figures. Afterwards, adults would share stories with us about people like Martin Luther King, Crispus Attucks, Madame C.J Walker, Harriet Tubman. At that time, not much black history was taught in schools, and there weren't many picture book biographies featuring people who looked like me. Evenings at the Black Theology Center provided my brothers and I with an insight to our past, something we weren't getting anywhere else.
When it comes to black history, no one person best represents the spirit of the month. There are so many black people who have made significant contributions to the lives of all Americans, many sacrificing their own to do so. It would be unfair to narrow the spirit of Black History Month down to one person. However, stories about Harriet Tubman were always my personal favorites. The idea that this black woman refused to be enslaved, escaped the south at the risk of losing her life, and then returned to save hundreds of others, speaks volumes to me. Her example of selflessness, and her willingness to help others is something that I, and this entire world, can learn from.
As an adult, my wife (also a student of the Black Theology center) and I stretch Black History Month out to last all year long. Our home library is filled with African American picture book biographies. We feel it's important to teach our son about the history of his people, black people — and all people, for that matter — all the time.
In other news: Congratulations to Lee & Low's 2006 New Voices winners! Glenda Armand Sheppard (Winner) and Janet Costa Bates, (Honor).
I was a 2005 honor recipient.