Honor Black History Month by Feeding Your Brain

By Peter Van Buren

With its origins dating back over a hundred years, February has been officially declared Black History Month by every U.S. president since President Ford in 1976.

The theme of Black History Month changes yearly. This year’s theme is The Crisis in Black Education. We need not look any further than Baltimore’s own schools to witness this crisis. But, where do we start in solving it?

Why not start by educating yourself? Here are a few ideas to consider for your education program. 

  • Volunteer at one of our neighborhood schools. Consult the Youth/Schools section of Bolton Hill’s Community Asset List to see where you might be needed. The children love having visitors, even if you just go once. You might find that once is not enough.
  • Attend this month’s Party with a Purpose organized by the Social Action Task Force, where guests will be asked to read a passage from a black author of their choosing. Donations raised at the party will support local youth organizations. The Party with a Purpose takes place Sunday, Feb. 26 from 2-5 pm at 1308 Bolton Street; more details here.
  • Lillie Carroll Jackson

    Learn about Lillie CarrolJackson, renowned civil rights activist who lived at 1320 Eutaw Place. To honor her legacy, Morgan State University completed a major renovation of her beautiful home in 2012, transforming it into the state-of-the-art the Lillie Carroll Jackson Civil Rights Museum. Unfortunately, due to the lack of funds to support its administration, the museum remains closed except by appointment (email LCJmuseum@morgan.edu or call 443-885-3895 if you’d like to visit).

    You can help make this valuable educational resource available to regular visitors by writing a check payable to the Morgan State University Foundation (note “Lillie Carroll Jackson Museum” in the memo line), and send to Mr. Gabriel Tenabe, James E. Lewis Museum, 1700 E. Cold Spring Lane, Baltimore, MD 21251.

  • Be inspired by the courageous and groundbreaking legacy of the many other famous black residents of the 21217 neighborhood by walking the Pennsylvania Avenue Heritage Trail, whose 2 mile path winds from the State Center to the Upton Metro. Brochures for the Trail (and delicious baked goods) are available at The Avenue Bakery, 2229 Pennsylvania Avenue. You can also take an audiovisual tour of Pennsylvania Avenue using the izi.Travel app or on your computer.
  • Expand your musical knowledge by listening to a black artist that’s new to you. Amazing black musicians are too numerous to count, but one I recommend is Gil Scott Heron. Try his hard-hitting The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, or the beautiful, but painfully sad Winter in America. Or if you want to go farther back, check out izi.Travel’s Eubie Blake’s Ragtime Riffs musical tour. 
  • Celebrate the rich contributions of black poets to American poetry by contemplating Twelve Poems at the Academy of American Poets website. Twelve contemporary black poets from across the country chose one poem each that should be read this month and then explain why.
  • Start down the path to social justice by learning about the critically important concept of white privilege. I’m learning a lot from Waking up White, by Debby Irving, while next up on my reading list is the National Book Award winner Between the World and Me, by West Baltimore native Ta-Nehisi Coates. 
  • Learn about the separate but unequal legacy of Plessy vs. Ferguson and Brown v. Board of Education by reading Jonathan Kozol’s Savage Inequalities: Children in America’s Schools.

Knowledge is power and it’s also cathartic. We welcome your suggestions about other ways to learn about black history or the crisis in black education. Leave a reply or comment below, or email us at bhbeditor@gmail.com.

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