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Programming for Families During Black History Month

February 26, 2024

Planning Black history programs in February provides a unique opportunity to create informative and creative celebrations of the contributions of Black Americans, engaging children and families alike.

Developing programs that embrace cultural diversity offers teachable moments and exposes our community to its richness. The following program offerings cater to all ages and are planned for the University City Regional Library this year in Charlotte, NC. It also includes programs from previous years. As you prepare for upcoming Black History programs or events aimed at fostering inclusivity, I encourage you to consider the program ideas outlined here to inspire your planning process.

Children’s Literacy Festival:

Black History Month Children’s Literary Festival

Invite families and children to explore the world of Black children’s authors and illustrators through hosting a children’s literacy festival. I partnered with the skilled artist and art teacher, Shaya Locke to create projects inspired by selected children’s books. This lively event wrapped up with children and families creating canvas art inspired by The Stuff of Stars by Marion Dane Bauer, beautifully, illustrated by Ekua Holmes. 

Writers and Illustrators Workshop:

Black History Month Diversity in Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators Workshop

Author and children’s book illustrator Bee’Anna Washington Weatherford conducted an engaging workshop on self-publishing and creating books that resonate with readers. Attendees gained insights into the book creation process, developed skills to encourage a growth-oriented mindset, and explored ways to enhance creativity. She also discussed her upcoming book, The Creative Composition Guide to Self-Publishing and Marketing. She has illustrated Little Warrior Woman: Just Like Mama by Osunfemi Wanbi Njeri and A is for Alchemy by Esther Reese. 

Diversity in Dance:

Celebrating Dance with Vision Elite Royalty

This engaging program celebrated the universal language of dance, a form of expression that transcends boundaries of race, ethnicity, and gender. Led by Jane Johnson’s esteemed Vision Elite Royalty Dance Company, the event began by honoring Black dancers who have made significant contributions to the dance world. Throughout the program, Vision Elite Royalty showcased the diversity within ballet and various dance styles, providing children and families with the opportunity to develop coordination skills through creative movement and music.

Discussion on Black Librarianship:

Exploring Black Librarianship and Segregated Libraries in America

Rodney E. Freeman Jr., creator of the upcoming documentary “Are You A Librarian: The Untold Story of Black Librarians,” led an in-person discussion on Black librarianship and segregated libraries. Utilizing ArcGIS technology, this discussion pinpointed past segregated libraries, including the historic Brevard Street Library for Negroes in Charlotte, NC, the first library for Black Americans in the City of Charlotte. Freeman offered insights from his journey as a librarian, highlighting the documentary’s importance in showcasing the invaluable contributions of Black librarians to the field. As the Digital Production Archivist at J. Murray Atkins Library at UNC Charlotte and the founder of Reminisce Preservation LLC, Freeman brings a wealth of expertise to his work. Pictured above alongside his research assistant, Kennedy Brooks. 

Preteen Book Club:

Books and Pencils Virtual Book Club

This upcoming virtual preteen book club will meet to discuss Swim Team by Johnnie Christmas. Preteens will explore the story of Bree, moving from Brooklyn to Florida, navigating new challenges, and discovering her role on the swim team. The graphic novel uniquely highlights historical periods of segregated pools without being preachy.

Inclusive Preteen and Teen Programs:

At a past Black History Month celebration, I initiated an esports program aimed at addressing disparities within the gaming industry. Through this program, youth were introduced to various esports careers and gaming opportunities. Collaborating with local experts, we crafted an engaging and informative experience for participants. This partnership ultimately evolved into an esports gaming series, featuring Professor Cash from Johnson C. Smith University, and provided additional enrichment opportunities for students to explore.

Past Black History Month Programs

One year, during an event-filled day, the acclaimed illustrator Gordon C. James, provided an engaging art program for children and families. Tommy Nichols, the founder of the Charlotte Black Film Festival, curated a thought-provoking short film series, followed by enriching discussions tailored for both youth and families. The event concluded with me having the privilege of participating in a live podcast hosted by Rod and Karen from the Black Guy Who Tips Podcast. During the podcast, we dedicated segments to spotlighting Black-centered children’s books.

During another year, I organized a virtual community forum as part of our Black History Month initiatives. The forum focused on discussing the impact of gentrification on families and explored current solutions with input from thought leaders and residents alike.

As you plan for future events, continue to tap into what is happening in your community and find ways to address the needs to add value. Find opportunities to create unique experiences and be open to collaborations. Consider incorporating ideas such as monthly or weekly scavenger hunts highlighting Black Americans, eye-catching book displays, and self-directed activities showcasing Black inventions and ingenuity into your Black History programs. 

Please check LSUCTC Toolkits for resources. 

Links to additional resources: 

Shayla Locke Instagram

Beetheeart

Reminisce Preservation

Vision Elite Royalty

Alicia Finley, a Library Associate at Charlotte Mecklenburg Library, delights in working in youth services. All views expressed in this blog post are her own.

For questions or comments, please contact Alicia Finley at afinley@cmlibrary.org.

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