History is essential to learn and if we can teach it an early age, we give our children and the next generation a stronger foundation to stand on and a deeper knowledge of self. Research has shown there are significant benefits to learning history, such as, a stronger sense of self identity and improved decision making and judgement skills. History also teaches one how to learn from others’ mistakes or be inspired by their success; it helps us to understand the world better and it provides a deeper context of how things were and how they came to be. So now the question becomes, “How do we teach our history sooner?” I have a personal method that I affectionately call the R.E.P method. It’s an acronym that stands for three action-oriented words which are: Read. Engage. Participate.
1) Read: Book plug! Read “The ABCs of the African Diaspora.” This is a great gateway book for children to learn history. The rhyming format of the book makes it easy for children to understand and digest the information. It’s a fun book to read that you and your family members can add to your nightly bedtime stories. Read books that grab your attention and spark your interest. There are books that are geared towards women of history and men of history, or books that are dedicated to a specific era or cause. Don’t know where to start? Here are a few suggestions or you can visit a book retailer or local library.
1. The Story of Ruby Bridges by Robert Coles
2. Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer: The Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement - Carole Boston Weatherford
3. Black Heroes: A Black History Book for Kids: 51 Inspiring People from Ancient Africa to Modern-Day U.S.A. (People and Events in History) - Arlisha Norwood
2) Engage: Engage with your family. One of my favorite pastimes is spending the day with my grandmother. We talk about everything, from day-to-day life, work, relationships, and cooking. However, what I especially enjoy, is listening to the memories she shares about her childhood. My grandmother vividly recounts living in segregated Miami, FL, where Jim Crow rules were the law of the land. Many people are unaware that today’s glamourous South Beach was formally a “Sundown Town”, meaning that if you were Black, Latino(a), or nonwhite you were prohibited from being on South Beach after sundown. A stiff punishment would ensue for those who were caught on the beach without having the proper authorization. I entered the Florida State Public School System at 13 and graduated at 18, without ever learning of this social code that has had a profound impact on the landscape of Miami. I’m also captivated by stories of how my great grandparents were able to insulate their children from such a discriminatory world and create a loving environment at home. Apart from all the racial animosity in the outside world, there was a world that her parents and neighborhood created, which affirmed her humanity and integrity. I cherish these moments; this is history up close and personal.
3) Participate: Participate in as many cultural events as possible. An immersive and stimulating activity is such a great way to experience history and culture. The options are endless. You can enroll in dance classes, visit museums or historical and cultural sites, attend festivals and cultural events, learn family recipes, or practice cultural traditions. This year I’ve managed to combine two of my favorite hobbies together: dance and history. I recently began taking Haitian Folklore dance classes at the Little Haiti Cultural Complex in Miami, Fl. This class has truly helped me to connect deeper with my Haitian heritage. There is a saying about Haitian dance: that it’s the living memory of the ancestors. The class is taught with live drummers playing traditional Haitian drumming music. It’s a noncompetitive environment and everyone is encouraged to listen to their bodies and feel the energy of the drums. As our feet, hips, and arms begin to sway with the beat of the music, I feel as if I’m learning the ancient dance of my ancestors. I’m dancing the ancestor’s dance. This is what I look forward to every Saturday.
In summary, if we want our children to have a deeper understanding of our history, culture, and the world, we are the primary agents and first point of contact for the passage of this information. It is our responsibility to tell our stories. Planting the roots of history in our children will only serve to benefit them and ultimately the greater society. I hope through my Read Engage Participate Method you discover new and exciting ways to explore history. You can practice all three methods or focus on one, whichever is suitable for you. Thank you all for reading my blog and be on the lookout for the next post!