Important COVID-19 information: Our Programs | FAQs | Resources for families

Back to Blog

February 22, 2024

Rediscovering Black History Month: The past helps us see the future

Last month, one of my students came in wearing a bedazzled sweatshirt that read “University.” I was curious, so I asked if she could pronounce the word and if she knew what it meant. Her response was ‘’no.’’ She just thought the sweatshirt was pretty. When I realized she didn’t know what a university was, we started a beautiful conversation about the many paths she could explore for her future. College wasn’t something she was aware of as an option for her future. Hearing her amazement made me think, “who else doesn’t know what that means in my classroom? And what can I do to change that?”

a flyer about Spellman College that Bre'Anna hung up to celebrate Black History MonthThat one interaction inspired my Black History Month display at my reading center. I’m a proud graduate of Albany State University (go Rams) in Georgia, 1 out of 107 historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs). Right now, each desk in my reading center features an HBCU, which has been a conversation starter for students and tutors. This will help our kids see a few of the many possible futures they can explore. 

I’ve also asked my tutors to wear their alumni gear when they volunteer so they can share their unique paths and I’m featuring a wide range of Black leaders on my door and walls. It opens so many conversations for students and even tutors to share what they know and to learn something new. And it’s informing me too, because it’s making me go back and read up so I can answer all their questions, such as “Can you be a non-Black person and attend a Historically Black College University?” Yes, if you meet the academic qualifications. 

rediscovering Black History Month through a poster about Spellman college

Or “Why were all of the HBCUs in the South?” Racial segregation became the law in most parts of the American South until the Civil Rights Movement. These laws, known as Jim Crow Laws, forced the use of facilities and services, prohibited intermarriage, and denied suffrage. So, Black people created a space for themselves and HBCUs were one of the ways to do that. 

I’m a Black woman; sometimes I like and know I deserve to take up space, and other times I want to disappear. Life can be an oxymoron! I know firsthand how a lack of representation can limit someone’s vision for themselves. Learning about Black leaders and going to an HBCU gave me a perspective I didn’t know I was missing. I knew I was missing something, but I proudly wouldn’t admit that out loud. 

a flyer about Albany State University in honor of Black History Month

Attending ASU taught me a lot about my history, about people who though I didn’t share their DNA, were family. They were a part of me. I was a part of them. I shared experiences, ideas, and dreams with not only my peers but also my ancestors. I made friends, and they became such a huge part of my life, growing my sense of family. It allowed me to accept myself for who I was and where I was, and realize I could and should grow. I learned that being me was fine….more than fine. So with that, why not help students envision that kind of growth for themselves?

If I can show students that they are safe with me and that they matter, then they can be bigger and better. That’s the whole point; it’s the ONLY point. 

students posing in front of a Black History Month door display

Being at Reading Partners is a blessing. It’s allowing me to have a place in the world, where I not only get to witness change but also be a part of it. I think that says a lot about this program. Blessing others while blessing oneself is rare. If we could all strive to do just that, we’d be better for it. 

Let’s keep asking questions, sharing experiences, and making space for each other every day, not just during Black History Month.

  • Logo for Accelerate
  • Logo for Five Below
  • Logo for Hellman Foundation
  • Logo for Bezos Family Foundation
  • Logo for George Kaiser Family Foundation
  • Logo for Panda Cares
  • Logo for The Duke Endowment
  • Logo for Deerbrook Charitable Trust

Thanks to our partners

Site by Vermilion Credits Privacy Policy ©2024 Reading Partners