This past February, the students at Yu Ming did a focused study on the history and accomplishments of African Americans. With a great deal of support from our parent community, the students listened to stories, participated in role-play activities, and created artwork that enhanced their understanding of the role of African Americans throughout history. The lessons for Black History month moved chronologically, beginning with slavery and culminating with a look at the contributions African Americans have made to society today.
Sizwe (Fiyah’s dad) took the students on a journey to Ghana where they learned about adinkra symbols. These symbols were widely used on pottery, within architecture, and especially on cloth to communicate proverbs and represent spiritual, moral, and familial beliefs. After reading Rhonda Mitchell’s The Talking Cloth, the students each got to make their own talking cloth using adinkra symbol stamps.
Sean and Lia (Elijah’s parents) worked with the students to discuss African slavery in America. They focused on slavery as a system for making money and spent time talking about empathy and explained that we might feel some of the things that the slaves are feeling as we talk and read about slavery. Excerpts were read from Kadir Nelson’s book Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans and the students joined together to sing “Swing Low Sweet Chariot,” a song sung by slaves in the field as they were working.
Lia (Elijah’s mom) and Cliff (Evaline’s dad) exposed the students to ideas about segregation. Students traveled back in time to the days of segregation and participated in a role-play activity that demonstrated the inequalities of segregation. Students also learned about and discussed the courage and bravery demonstrated by a young Ruby Bridges during the time of desegregation. This lesson culminated with a song “Dance and Be Free,” which promotes embracing diversity.
Andie (Roman’s mom) introduced the students to some African Americans who have made major contributions to society. The students met Madame C.J. Walker, America’s first self-made millionaire woman, Garret Morgan, the inventor of the traffic signal and the gas mask, and George Washington Carver, who taught farmers about his crop rotation methods and invented dozens of products from peanuts. However, the students’ favorite inventor had to be Lonnie Johnson who invented the Super Soaker!
Our celebration for Black History Month concluded with a visit from the amazing Tacuma King. King is a teacher, master percussionist, and leading member of the Bay Area’s music, dance, and arts education community. Each student had the opportunity to play one of King’s instruments and learn an African drum beat!
- Contributed by Teacher Mia
- Special thanks to Sizwe Abakah (Faiyah’s dad), Lia & Sean Ward (Elijah’s parents), Cliff Flamer (Evaline’s dad), and Andie Butler Acuña (Roman’s mom) for being our wonderful “guest teachers” this past month. Thanks also to the many other parents who contributed their time, energy, and ideas to Black History Month. Teacher Mia couldn’t have done it without you!