Friday, February 8, 2019

10 Ways to Celebrate Black History Month in Your Transracial Family

Every parent wants the best for their child. This remains true for those who have grown their families through adoption, and have embarked on the journey of transracial parenting in a postmodern society. While these parents sometimes come from different ethnic backgrounds and bring with them different lived experiences, what is true is that these parents want nothing more than for their children to feel wanted, loved, protected and seen. Such a task yields particularly unique challenges for white parents who adopt black children. Many are aware of the racism of America, but they are confronted with it differently when they come face to face with parenting some of America’s tiniest victims. One adoptive parent shares a piece of her story on American University’s Radio show The Kojo Nnamdi Show. A woman from Northern Virginia named Angela says,

I am white; my 15 and 17-year-old sons are black. White parents need to understand that they will not always be able to protect their black children with their white privilege, as a young black boy’s life is very different…I have witnessed racist interactions by simply standing a distance from my sons. The answer…read, read, read. Learn, listen and validate! Teach them how to respond. Empower them.”

 found this to be such a profound statement. But yet I imagine that if other similarly classified adoptive parents were in her presence when she made this statement they might have asked, what do I read? What do I listen to? Where do I go? How do I start? I believe that Black History Month is one of the greatest and most opportune times that adoptive parents of black children can read, learn, listen, validate, teach, and empower their black children.

Black History Month is a period of time during the month of February when many explore and celebrate the past and present contributions of Africans all over the world, but particularly African Americans in the United States. I find it to be the perfect time for parents to encourage their children to embrace their heritage, explore their history, and educate their home on African American culture and identity. But perhaps, many parents may still be unclear on where to even begin to look.

And so below I’ve provided 10 simple ways that you can facilitate your child’s growth and education in their heritage and identity, while also enjoying family time together this Black History Month.

  • Read them books like Vashti Harrison’s Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History and Patrice McLaurin’s Have You Thanked an Inventor Today?
  • Plan an outing to visit an African American museum in your area.
  • Patron a Black Owned Restaurant, Café, or shop and speak to the owners if possible.
  • Watch movies like Hidden Figures, The Butler, 42, and The Help and discuss the different themes that emerge from the film.
  • Assign your child/ren a 1-page Report on famous African American Firsts every week.
  • Attend events that celebrate the contributions of different African American pioneers and individuals at local community centers, churches or libraries.
  • Watch Documentaries like Eyes on The Prize and Mighty Times: The Children’s March.
  • Listen to/Read the speeches of different African American Leaders from Frederick Douglass to Barack Obama.
  • Memorize the poem “Hey Black Child” by Useni Eugene Perkins.
  • Enjoy Marvel’s Black Panther as a family.

Black History Month is about American History. It’s a time when stories are shared. It’s a time where families of all makeups have an opportunity to bond over the beauty, the music, the food, the contributions, and the hopes of African American people. But the greatest stories that a child can hear are the ones that have you as their parent in them. So yes, do seek out these stories, and help them understand their value through these activities, but don’t forget to show them how you and they fit into your own Black History narrative. For it is your story as their parents and your collective story as a family that, in spite of what society throws their way, will solidify for your children that they are wanted and loved.

About the author: Claudia M. Allen is a freelance writer and instructor of African American literature as a doctoral student in English at the University of Maryland.

Resources: Tam, Ruth. “Powerful Stories From Adoptive Parents and Adoptees On Transracial Adoption.” The Kojo Nnamdi Show. American University Radio. May 10, 2018. Web. 7 Feb 2019.

Claudia M. Allen