I am IN LOVE with these photographs! Check out more at: http://www.becauseofthemwecan.com/
The site describes their mission as:
The Mission :To Educate and Connect a New Generation to Heroes Who Have Paved the Way
On October 28, 2008, just days before the election of Barack Obama, the first African American President of the United States, my first son Chase was born. On July 9, 2012, a few months before President Obama’s historic re-election, my second son Amari was born. Six months later, a few days before February 2013, I began to reflect on my sons and their promising future – specifically the opportunities they could pursue as a result of the progress and achievements made by individuals past and present. I also thought about the responsibility and at times the fear, I carry as a mother raising Black boys. I thought about how just one-year prior, Trayvon Martin was murdered. The murder and circumstances surrounding Trayvon’s death awakened my consciousness and moved me to create the “I Am Trayvon Martin” photo campaign. It was through this painful time for the Martin family and America that I came to realize that my lens could truly serve as a microphone that could amplify the feelings, fears, dreams and even the pain of a community.
The Because of Them, We Can campaign was birthed out of my desire to share our rich history and promising future through images that would refute stereotypes and build the esteem of our children. While I originally intended to publish the campaign photos, via social media, during Black History Month, I quickly realized how necessary it was to go further. With so many achievers to highlight, and thousands of children to engage and inspire, 28 days wasn’t enough. On the last day of February, with just 28 photographs in my collection, I decided to resign from my job in order to continue the campaign. On March 1, 2013, after most national and local conversations about Black History and Achievement ended, I released a photo of a mini-inspired Phyllis Wheatley and began the journey to continue the project for a full year.
A year later I have come to the conclusion that even 365 days aren’t enough. What began as a mother’s passion project quickly evolved into a movement. Today we are committed as ever before to encourage and empower people of all ages and hues to dream out loud and reimagine themselves as greater than they are, simply by connecting the dots between the past, the present and the future.
I think that you will enjoy them too! Black History 365!
Every February in grade school, I learned and re-learned the limited histories of a handful of key figures. Rosa Parks, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Garrett Morgan, Harriet Tubman, and Dr. George Washington Carver. It was rare that we heard about anyone else and if we did, we received trivia rather than histories.
“Who was the first Black major league baseball player?” (Jackie Robinson)
“Who was the first Black millionaire?” (Madame CJ Walker)
(For a more extensive famous firsts lists, click here)
The answers to these trivia questions have become embedded into my adult memory. Rosa Parks sat on the front of bus. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. marched for rights. Harriet Tubman freed slaves. Garret Morgan invented the traffic light and so on. However, these men and women did much more than that. Their extended biographies are not discussed until collegiate level African American studies, if at all.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. organized and spoke for both Labor and Civil Rights. The Poor People’s Campaign, planned near the end of Dr. King’s life, was intended to advocate for good jobs, healthcare, and housing for all Americans.
Each of the leaders mentioned have a deeper history than what is touched upon in common education.
For instance, Dr. George Washington Carver was a great scientist and inventor, but many people only associate him with the invention of peanut butter. Though Dr. Carver has done many great things, inventing peanut butter was not one of them.
Peanut butter is recorded as having existed as far back as 3000 years ago.
However, Dr. George Washington Carver did change (read: save) American agriculture by introducing crop rotation.
He did invent over 300 products using the peanut and over 115 products using the sweet potato.
These inventions included printer ink, synthetic rubber, material for paving highways, insulation board, and:
From the Peanut:
- 19 types of leather dyes
- 18 types of insulating boards
- 11 types of wall boards
- 17 types of wood stains
- 11 types of peanut flours
- 30 types of cloth dyes
- 50 types of food products
From the Sweet Potato:
- 73 types of dye
- 17 types of wood fillers
- 14 types of candy
- 5 types of library paste
- 5 types of breakfast foods
- 4 types of starches
- 4 types of flour
- 3 types of molasses
Dr. Carver also created over 500 different shades of paint, using extracts from the earth as well as research in manufacturing “paints and stains from soybeans”.
Dr. Carver is a perfect example of why we as parents and teachers should conduct further research on celebrated African American figures before we select our curriculum. I, too, am guilty of long associating Dr. Carver with peanut butter and could have easily passed down this unfairly abbreviated history to my son. It is our job as educators to dig deeper because we want our students to know full histories.
Also, we want our students to do the same, right? If we are going to continue teaching about the same central figures that were introduced to us in grade school, let us expand the lesson by adding a research dynamic. Let us challenge our students to teach us something that we did not know.
Our goal in this is to raise well-rounded scholars, not trivia champions on traffic lights and peanut butter.
I hope that you and your students have been having an awesome week. Here are six great resources for Black History Month to get February off to a great start.