The Chalk Blog

This is US.

Celebrating Black History Month, Year-Round

Scrubbing the oatmeal from the blue enamel pot in my kitchen sink, I looked up when I heard, 

“It’s a story we need to tell.  
Not just in February--the coldest and shortest month,
but every day of the year, because this is our story.  
It’s not “us and them, it’s February so we’ll take some time out and do this.” 
It is every single day.  
This is the story of us.  
And, guess what? There’s no “them,” which is what we all try to make up.  
In the U.S., it’s us. Not them.” 

These words are from Ken Burns, the well-known documentarian. He’s discussing his film project, “Baseball,” which tells the story of the Negro Baseball League and baseball great Hank Aaron. Burns uses the film to demonstrate how far we have come, yet how far we still have to go. 

Films, books, movies and experiences teach. Since I have a lot to learn, I decided to watch, read, ask, and attend so I could more fully understand our nation’s history.  

Our history. 

The story of us.  

To learn more, I... 

  • Read The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coate. As I read, I imagined what it would be like to not know my family’s history, to wonder where my parents were or to have my children taken from me. Humbling and heartbreaking.  
  • Watched Harriet and learned the story of American freedom fighter Harriet Tubman and her unyielding desire for a basic human need: freedom. 
  • Asked a friend about a picture he had in his home of Osceola McCarty. I learned Ms. McCarty had lived in Hattiesburg, Mississippi and worked washing clothes by hand. Through her work doing laundry, she saved $150,000 and donated her life savings to the University of Southern Mississippi. She asked that the money be used for scholarships for those experiencing financial hardship so they could attend Southern Miss.   
  • Am reading the Pulitzer Prize and Phi Beta Kappa award in science winning book Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond. The book explains how our nation progressed. Fascinating.  
  • Attended the Frozen River Film Festival and watched a documentary about Hawaii. From seeing the film I learned why the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and others who marched from Selma to Montgomery, wore leis. The leis were sent to Alabama from Hawaii in Asian-American solidarity for the Civil Rights Movement 
  • Watched Hair Love, winner of the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Subject film. A sweet six minutes and 47 seconds story.   

My Reading List: 

For Educators: Reading and Resources 

As educators, it’s our job to learn, and then to teach. These books, documentaries, movies and experiences can be used to teach students about our nation’s history.  

As Ken Burns said, there is no “them.”  

Black history is our history.  

It is the story of us.  

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