DISTRICT | February 16, 2021
“It is brave to be involved. To be not fearful to be unresolved.” – Gwendolyn Brooks
Gwendolyn Brooks was a Chicago Public Schools student when she published her first poem at the age of 13. Nearly a century later, her acclaimed works haven’t lost a shred of their importance in capturing the Black experience in Chicago. They may be more important than ever. Brooks called Chicago her “headquarters.” It was the city where she created character after character and wrote poem after poem.
You could spend an entire school year discussing the work of Gwendolyn Brooks. And if you adjust your microscope suddenly more Black Chicago writers—Richard Wright, Lorraine Hansberry, and Arna Bontemps— come into view. Another turn of the knob and you see Black musicians and athletes. Chefs and doctors. Contributors and leaders. There’s too much excellence to comprehend and you haven’t even left Chicago yet.
Open up your classroom, whether in-person or virtual, to some of those voices during Black History Month. And then more of them in March. Keep them at full volume throughout the school year. The resources below should help you get started.
Five Books that Honor Black Heroes:
A great way to introduce elementary school students to important figures throughout Black history is through a classroom read aloud. In addition to the five books found below, the Chicago Public Library has created lists of titles to help children and teens celebrate Black History Month.
- Facing Frederick: The Life of Frederick Douglass, A Monumental American Man by Tonya Bolden
- Finding Langston by Lesa Cline-Ransome
- George Washington Carver for Kids: His Life and Discoveries with 21 Activities by Peggy Thomas
- Michelle Obama by Alison Oliver
- Sisters & Champions: The True Story of Venus and Serena Williams by Howard Bryant
Looking for even more books? Check out some new favorites on The Black Caucus of the American Library Association’s 2020 ‘Best of the Best’ Booklist, which recognizes Black authors and artists with work published between 2019 and 2020.
Five Ways to Explore Diverse Black Identities:
The resources below can help high school students and their teachers hold powerful classroom discussions about equity, diversity, and identity. Additional tools can be found here.
- The Urgency of Intersectionality: Kimberlé Crenshaw’s TED Talk explores race and gender bias in the United States.
- Defining and Studying the African Diaspora: Colin Palmer’s essay examines the meaning and evolution of the African diaspora as well as its historical roots.
- A Black Women’s History of the United States: Daina Ramey Berry and Kali Nicole Gross’ book amplifies the voices of Black women in communities across the country.
- We need more ‘trauma-free Blackness.’ Here’s a start: John Blake’s article analyzes the relationship between Black lives and the media.
- Black Joy: Dr. Bettina Love shares the importance of centering joy and community within Black liberation.
Five Events that Celebrate Black Joy:
Even though the lineup is mostly virtual this year, February is still jam-packed with ways to celebrate Black joy, Black experiences, and Black people. A full list of events can be found here.
- Musical Evening with Harry Lennix: On February 20, Chicago-born actor Harry Lennix showcases will highlight some of Chicago’s up-and-coming talented teenagers from Kenwood Academy on WTTW.
- Black History Month Virtual Concert: The Chicago Children’s Choir is streaming a virtual concert on February 25 at 7:00 p.m.
- Black History Month Knowledge Bowl: The Chicago Park District is hosting a virtual Black History Month Knowledge Bowl on February 26 at 4:00 p.m.
- Underground Railroad Walks: The Forest Preserves of Cook County are offering a free, socially distanced exploration of an Underground Railroad route in the Chicagoland area on February 27 from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
- Black Creativity: The Museum of Science and Industry is offering a series of sessions for Black artists and STEM professionals to virtually share their career with students through hands-on activities and meaningful conversations.
The district’s Department of Social Science and Civic Engagement is committed to the belief that Black lives have and will always continue to matter. Learn more about its More Than a Month campaign to raise awareness on the importance of Black history here.