Family Engagement History & Social Studies Race & Racism

SFUSD Update: Is Your Child Experiencing Black History Month?

Black History Month SFUSD: #BlackHistoryMatters!

Happy Black History Month!!! By now your child should be sharing some of the some of the wonderful things they are learning about the amazing history and contributions of African Americans to American history and culture. For the first time, I think ever (!) my girls are reporting they are learning about Black scientists and mathematicians and athletes in their science, math, and P.E. classes. They are also engaging in a school-wide door decorating contest and have had several grade level assemblies! I hear other schools are hosting reading contests and read-aloud days, field trips and much, much, more! #BlackHistoryMatters! (Click on this link to see resources I’ve collected over the years involving Black History.)

Our district Superintendent, Dr. Vincent Matthews clearly agrees. He shared his expectations in a recent parent newsletter that “SFUSD incorporates African American history into the core curriculum throughout the year and throughout all grade levels”. He also reaffirmed the importance of teaching Black History in a recent article he penned for the SF Examiner stating:

In all months — but even more so in February, we encourage all our schools give dedicated time and space to the celebration of Black history, Black people, and their contributions to the fields of literature, mathematics, science, and politics and many more fields.

That said, I am also hearing reports that not all schools are fully engaged in doing this important work. 🙁

I recently spoke with Laticia Erving, the AMAZING district staff member who supports Black family engagement, who told me Black History celebration and instruction should be happening in all schools. Earlier this year, with the approval of the Superintendent, the African American Achievement & Leadership Initiative (AAALI) Team, asked all site leaders to hold dedicated events for black history month. In other words, the teaching and celebration of African-American History should not “optional”, rather it is expected. 

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Black History Month SFUSD: The District’s Message

With the district’s permission, I am sharing expectations of site leaders so that families like ours can better ensure our schools “keep promises to students and families”. The AAALI team has informed me the following message should have been emailed to all Principals from their Assistant Superintendents:

This month, we know many of you will celebrate Black History Month in your schools. For those who are not familiar with its history, Black History Month finds its origins in Negro History Week, which was founded by Dr. Carter G. Woodson and first held in February 1926. The support for this week-long celebration led to its recognition and observance as Black History Month in 1976. Understandably, this month has special significance for our African-American students and families and students and families of other backgrounds as well.

We strongly encourage you all to ensure that your school community has a dedicated time and space to celebrate Black History, Black people, and their contributions to the fields of literature, mathematics, science, and politics (among others) this month.  If you are seeking resources and content to support a Black History Month celebration, please follow the African American Achievement & Leadership Initiative (AAALI) Facebook Page.  Every day for the month of February, AAALI will highlight a Black historical figure with a brief biography and links to potential resources for learning.  In addition, we encourage you to review the African American Parent Advisory Council’s (AAPAC) guidance on how to celebrate Black History month in SFUSD.

Black History Month SFUSD: What’s happening at your child’s school?

Additionally, the African-American Parent Advisory Council (AAPAC) is requesting folks show up at the next Board of Education Meeting on Tuesday, February 13 at 6PM to share their experiences both positive and negative about how/whether this is happening in our schools.

And, you don’t have to be a Black parent/guardian or a member of the AAPAC to attend. In fact, this is a great opportunity for non-Black family allies to show up in support of Black history and celebration in all our schools. If we can ensure that Black History is taught during a designated month in February, we are one step closer to ensuring it is happening in all schools all year long. We can also explore district-wide expectations we have as an SFUSD community for celebrations and teaching of Asian-Americans, LGBTQ, Latinx and other communities in our schools. (Also, schools can also celebrate the intersections and connections of these aforementioned histories as a part of Black History, e.g. Civil Rights connections to integration of Asian-Americans in schools, Black LQBTQ leaders, Afro-Latinx cultural connections, etc.)

Black History Month SFUSD: Here is what YOU can do!

  1. Share this message within your parent networks,
  2. Ask your children what is happening (or NOT happening) at their school. (Ask questions and share appreciation with teachers/administrators as appropriate.)
  3. Come out to the upcoming Board of Education Mtg. on 2/13 to share appreciation and/or feedback on your childs’ experience

Feel free to reach out to me directly if you have questions. Or, connect with Laticia Erving at SFUSD to learn more about what schools are doing across the district.

Thank you for all you do to support our schools!

What’s happening in your school? Share ideas, reflections and resources in the comments below!

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3 thoughts on “SFUSD Update: Is Your Child Experiencing Black History Month?

  1. My school, a K-5 in the Richmond, is lifting up Black history month by asking the older students to research Black historical figures and write reports and share them with their peers.

    We’re also doing a read-in where our teachers go to different classrooms and read books written by African-American authors. Parents are invited to participate in the read-in as well, and I hope to do this soon. Our principal says that the school also lifts up African-American history throughout the year.

    I talked to our kindergarten teacher today about this. She expressed difficulty in finding material for kinder students other than MLK Jr. I mentioned the “danger of the single story”, and I’m wondering if there are resources out there to help her.

    Thank you for lifting this up, Ali! I’m sharing this with all of my parent networks. I wish I could go to the school board meeting, but I have an event on Tuesday night that I cannot excuse myself from.

    1. I’d recommend she speak with the school librarian. (Have I mentioned I LOVE librarians!!!) I’d also suggest she look at this list and this list of books that are not about boycotts, blues or basketballs. Lee & Low Books is a great source of diverse reads for kids of all ages. And you can always check out my Pinterest board on storybooks for race-conscious kids. Oh! And there’s also African and African-American folktales and fairytales too! 🙂

  2. A belated thanks for this, Ali! My child’s teacher did come up with a lot of interesting lesson plans. Once a week our principal read the reports the 4th and 5th graders wrote about Black historical figures. I’m happy to say that there was diversity in that there were people outside the boycotts/blues/basketball spheres. The reports written by our older students also featured laminated posters of the celebrated historical figures that were hung around our school.

    Thanks you for the lists of books. My son and I went to the Main Branch of the SF Public Library and brought home a couple of tote bags filled with books from the lists you provided. Thanks again for taking the time to share so much wonderful information with me. I passed a lot of the information in your post on to others.

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