Black History Month

by Jackson

I love February. Oh, it’s cold and hard, but February is also Black History Month! Say what you will about the validity or need of a month devoted to the history of a certain people, I really like Black History Month.

It took me a long time to learn how to read. By the start of grade two I still couldn’t really make heads or tails of words. Lucky me, my poor reading was noticed. I was doubly lucky to go to a school where a specialist was available. I took remedial reading throughout grade two and grade three.

It wasn’t until grade three, Ms. Cromwell’s class, that reading took flight for me. Ms. Cromwell was a young black woman from Nova Scotia. She was, is, a fantastic teacher. With her I learned to love reading. She made reading, and Black History Month, a really big deal. The two were so intricately related, and so exciting, that you couldn’t help but become engrossed in learning. She spared no stops in preparing for February. There was a talent show, special guests, films, and food. Something new happened every day, and a lot of those activities required books. Emancipation from slavery and emancipation from illiteracy are fundamentally intertwined ideas. Ms. Cromwell had a remarkable way of explaining both to 8 year olds. I owe a large debt to her talented and caring teaching.

I went to a very heterogeneous school. Everyone was from everywhere. I was one of only 4 kids in my class who were Canadian-born and white. It was a challenging place to hang on to your identity and connection to history. In Ms. Cromwell’s class, multiculturalism meant more than maintaining disparate and distinct social enclaves. Multiculturalism meant interweaving stories. To Ms. Cromwell, and the rest of my class, living together meant a rich and shared history. Thanks to her, Black History is my history. Ms. Cromwell’s Black History Month said so strongly “there is room for you, your story is important too.” You didn’t have to be black to share in the benefits of Black History Month. Sharing black history was a powerfully binding experience.

So, in honour of Ms. Cromwell, I’ll be celebrating Black History Month this month.  And for your edutainment, a song. This performance by Nina Simone gives me the shivers. Enjoy: