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Friday
Feb052016

Black History, Black Heritage Box

Heritage Box, a new company devoted to monthly deliveries, officially launched last month in January with the express purpose of mailing out mystery boxes full of goodies from Africa. The Heritage Box is curated to teach children ages 7 to 12 about Black History and geography of the countries of Africa. (Because there are a lot of them. You know, it being a continent and all.) (I'm looking at you, Raven-Symone. You ain't from everywhere in Africa.)

In February, they have a Black History themed box where they consulted with teachers and educators on the content for each box. As these boxes are mostly for school-age children, they make sure that the games and books are age appropriate. They consult with parents, educators, and children on the contents.

The African Travel box is delivered every other month with some special boxes in between. They contain appropriate souvenirs from the featured country chosen by a Procurement Manager who is based in Kenya and who travels all over Africa in search of the perfect souvenirs and African authored books to share.

 

From their site they explain their purpose:

Founded by African American  and African parents, Heritage Box was created to provide our children engaging ways to teach our children their history and African geography. We want our children to grow up proud of their culture, proud of who they are.

It has become even more important in these times to instill these values in our children . Our monthly subscription boxes are specially curated to provide a rich cultural understanding, open children's eyes up to the beauty and magnificence of Africa , and to keep children excited about learning more about themselves. We believe instilling this foundation will lead to children that are self aware and confident in their skin!

 

What's comes in the first Heritage Box?

  • An authentic Masaai Box to store future African souvenirs
  • A world map 
  • A postcard album to store postcards from the different countries/places we will visit together 
  • A journal to record their thoughts 
  • A book with an overview of African American history
  • A bookmark for the books they will receive

During the second month:

kids receive a “Travel” package that focuses on one country in Africa. You'll get a souvenir, some games, a book and other surprises.

During the third month: 

kids will enjoy a heritage box featuring a theme or person in Black history.

How Much Does it Cost?

A month-to-month plan is $29.99 per month but a better deal would be the 6 month prepaid plan for $162. You're charged every 6 months with a reminder prior to being charged again.

I wish I had a coupon code to give friends, but it's still a great investment for anyone looking to give their kids a monthly gift that comes in the mail and is a surprise. Well done, Heritage Box.

Wednesday
Feb032016

Black History, Black Ballerinas: Ingrid Silva

A little over a year ago my friend Isabel invited me to the ballet in Chicago. She lives in New York and had traveled to see them because she's on the board of directors of the ballet that was performing, the Dance Theatre of Harlem. I am so proud of what she's doing that I occasionally look here to see her name displayed. My friends do some really cool things.

 

Since I hadn't been to the ballet since I was a little girl, Isabel walked me through what we'd be seeing and she patiently explained the differences between classical ballet, neo-classical, and contemporary. Finally! Someone took the time to tell me about the ballet before I watched it. It was perfect sitting beside her where she could point things out and tell me what to watch for and which parts were her favorite. It was like going to a wine tasting and having them say, "This is a full bodied wine that has a flamboyant taste with an abundance of fruit as well as a nuttiness to it" and then I take a sip and say, "YES. I CAN TASTE THAT." 

She was kind enough to take me backstage and introduce me to the dancers and, since the Dance Theatre of Harlem has mostly dancers of color, there were a ton of young dancers of color from all ballet schools in Chicago that were also there. Have you ever seen a rock star and their adoring fans? 

This was the exact same thing. 

Wide eyes and pointing and little girls and boys whispering about the company dancers coming out of their dressing rooms to meet them. It was magic. The lovely Isabel introduced me to several of them so I could express my gratitude and wonder at their grace and strength and craft but one, in particular, had an enormous fan base of girls who, I learned, all follow her on Instagram.

 

A BALLERINA WITH AN INSTAGRAM ACCOUNT. This is like another world. Ballerinas are such ballers. Y'all don't even know.

Ingrid Silva's Instagram account has since become one of my favorites as her photos are stunning. She displays an ease with her fans online that feels genuine and she inspired those young dancers not just with her moves but with her kindness.

 

My favorite part of her Instagram account, aside from the fact that she's so stunning, is that she poses around NYC to showcase both her talent and her city. Sometimes, she takes pictures of her relaxing and having fun, too.

 

Ingrid and Isabel both speak Portuguese (Ingrid is from Brazil) and did so to one another after the show. The amount of pure culture in that space is astounding and if you take a look at the Company dancers you'll see an incredible amount of diversity. 

 

In studying and learning more about Black History and Future this month, I wanted to highlight Ingrid as well as the Dance Theatre of Harlem (check out the dance school videos on the website as well) as a part of seeing ourselves and our Blackness in this art form. 

A few other references to check out for other well known Black ballerinas are here and here about Misty Copeland (don't miss her performing back in 2011 with Prince in this video) who has a performance coming up on February 8 on PBS.

Also, check out Karyn Parsons (remember Hilary from Fresh Prince of Bel-Air? That's her!) who did a Kickstarter last year to tell the story of Janet Collins, the first African American soloist to perform at the Metropolitan Opera. The video is narrated by Chris Rock and is short and perfect for school-age children. We showed this today during lunch for our students in middle school.

And, of course, take in a show and enjoy the ballet if you are able. I'm a fan of the arts in many forms and this one made a ballet fan out of me after years of not giving it the proper amount of attention. If you can do it and celebrate Black History and Black Future at the same time, all the more power to you.

Tuesday
Feb022016

Black History, Black Future: Wendell Scott

Yesterday, while searching for great content to add to my growing list of things to share with our students for Black History Month, I happened upon the #BlackFutureMonth hashtag on Twitter. I was in my office by myself, or so I thought, but two students had come in unbeknownst to me and they heard me talking to myself. 

"This is the best thing ever. Of course we can change 'history' to 'future'! This is powerful."

"Who are you talking to?" they asked me. 

Busted. But that happens all the time when I'm conversing with myself (I have some of the best conversations with myself. I always agree with me.)

However, the best thing I found yesterday for students is something that surprised me because I had never heard of Wendell Scott before. My husband, who is a fan of car racing and who used to have his own race car, knew of him. I don't suppose one must be a NASCAR fan in order to know about such groundbreaking people as Wendell Scott. Still, it was one of those moments where I thought that something about this man's life should have come onto my radar at some point.

 

By Ethancasey (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons

StoryCorps takes real stories recorded by real people (they travel across the states to record) and has been doing so since 2003 and, sometimes, they use animation to complement the story. 

From the StoryCorps website on Wendell Scott I read the following:

In 2015, Wendell Scott became the first African American inducted in the NASCAR Hall of Fame.


Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, he poured his heart, soul, and all of his earnings into maintaining his own race car.


In this StoryCorps Animated Short, his son, Frank, remembers what it took for his father to cross the finish line at racetracks throughout the South.

Wendell's son and grandson spoke in this interview which you can listen to here.

 

By Mike Kalasnik [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Those students in my office were both 8th graders who had, as luck would have it, had come to talk to me about doing things at school for Black History Month that they hadn't experienced before in their last two years. I asked each of them if they had ever heard of Wendell Scott before and, unsurprisingly, they hadn't. We began researching right there in that moment to find out more and when we searched for free photos of him to use we noticed that his own image doesn't come up first. The above photo of a car is the top search picture. Then, there's a picture of him that you see above that.

I cannot let an opportunity pass when a teachable moment presents itself so we discussed how having the car photo above a photo of him when you actively search his name is problematic and one of the students got it right away.

If you can make it about his car and not about him then you can erase him from history.

Wendell Scott isn't entirely erased and this is why I'm grateful for StoryCorps as well as this story from Rolling Stone Magazine Driven: Darrell Wallace, Jr Remembers NASCAR's Jackie Robinson. Storytelling that is inclusive like this and people following a hashtag about the future of ensuring that marginalized people have a voice is how the generation in my office yesterday are going to learn and celebrate Black History Month. There's nothing wrong with modifying how we've celebrated something that began as a national celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of emancipation sponsored by the state of Illinois. The promotion of achievements and an uncovering of a history that white society was far too happy covering up is not still "in the past". 

That future, these kids, are the ones I'm looking to in order to change it. Sorry for all the pressure, kids. It's just that my generation didn't get that accomplished.  

Do it for all the Wendell Scotts out there. Tell your stories and find stories that you haven't heard before. We'll be listening.

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