We have officially entered the significant month of February, Black History Month.
We must always think about the importance of Black History throughout the school year, yet this is a special month. While Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks are the most recognized leaders in the struggle for civil rights, it is absolutely critical we ALSO share with our students many different ChangeMakers in the Black community that may not always get a spotlight.
Inspired by our very own ChangeMakers teachers, here is a short list of African Americans that helped to touch our lives in ways that we may have never realized, until now!
Huey Newton - Creator and organizer of the The Black Panther Movement, meant to prevent police brutality in urban communities here in the Bay Area! In addition to challenging police brutality, the Black Panther Party launched more than 35 Survival Programs and provided community help, such as education, tuberculosis testing, legal aid, transportation assistance, ambulance service, and the manufacture and distribution of free shoes to poor people. Of particular note was the Free Breakfast for Children Program (begun in January 1969) that spread to every major American city with a Black Panther Party chapter.
Alvin Ailey - The Modern Dance pioneer who in 1958 founded the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater which, nearly 30 years after his death, is still producing some of the finest works of dance in America. Ailey was proud to have created a multiracial dance company, giving opportunities to minorities without showing preference to any race. His ICONIC work Revelations is still performed regularly to this day, almost 50 years since its creation. It's a sensibility that continues with the dance company today – as does the high quality of the troupe's work.
Aretha Franklin - The “Queen of Soul” and the first woman inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. A singer of great passion and control whose finest recordings define the term soul music in all its deep, expressive glory. Aretha Franklin was more than just a soulful singer. She was an icon. Her music career began during the civil rights movement in the 1960's, and over time the strength of her voice became matched only by the strength of voices everywhere in America. Ms. Franklin was a symbol of perseverance and power—female power, black power, human power. She was a beacon of hope and her hit song, “Respect,” remains a battle cry for freedom and equality to this day. You can watch her bring tears to Barack Obama's eyes in her modern rendition of a classic hit.
Maya Angelou - An acclaimed American poet, storyteller, activist, and autobiographer, Maya Angelou was born Marguerite Johnson in St. Louis, Missouri. Angelou had a huge career. Her list of talents include singer, dancer, actress, composer, and Hollywood’s first female black director. She is most known as a writer, editor, essayist, playwright, and poet. As a civil rights activist in the , Angelou worked for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. She was also an educator and served as the Reynolds professor of American Studies at Wake Forest University. She served on two presidential committees, for Gerald Ford in 1975 and for Jimmy Carter in 1977. In 2000, Angelou was awarded the National Medal of Arts by President Bill Clinton. In 2010, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in the U.S., by President Barack Obama. In fact, Angelou was awarded over 50 honorary degrees before her death.
W.E.B. Du Bois - An American sociologist, historian, author, editor, and civil rights activist who was the most important black protest leader in the United States during the first half of the 1900's. Well before Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr. W.E.B. DuBois shared in the creation of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1909 and edited The Crisis, its magazine, from 1910 to 1934. His collection of essays The Souls of Black Folk (1903) is a landmark of African American literature.
It is also important to think about ChangeMakers presently- such as the Black Lives Matter movement and athletes such as Colin Kaepernick taking a knee during the national anthem, both forms of protest to raise awareness of African Americans who have been marginalized and oppressed, due to the systematic racism in America. Here at ChangeMakers, we strive everyday to inspire students to find their voice through their strongest medium and use it to make visible and lasting change in their communities. Whether its at home, Vallejo, the Bay area, or here at school.
We invite you to join us for a Black History Month Share Out, where families may join their child in the classroom. The times are provided below!
1st-5th Grade: 11-12
6th-8th Grade: 8am-8:30am
Ms. Yilpet & Mrs. Weingarten
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