Theoretically I think National Observances provide a great opportunity to look around and notice other people's accomplishments and their historical contribution to our country. The trick is squeezing that ideal into my rigorous diaper changing, carpool driving, and laundry folding schedule. But whether it be Presidents Day or Memorial Day, when I'm on my game my kids get to hear me yammer on about the significance of the day, and what it means to us. As you can imagine, they're thrilled to listen.
February is Black History month. I've been hit and miss in past years, but this year I'm renewing my goal to participate in this observance. Sometimes I read African-American novels (okay, that's what I do most of the time because that's what I love best), but in past years I've also spent some time googling poetry, speeches and art images that are relevant to Black History month. Jeremy wants me to add that he watches as much ESPN as possible as to honor the many fine athletic achievements of the incredible black athletes in our country's sports history. Okay. Whatever makes you feel good, I guess.
But just in case you want to be converted to the tradition during the month of February, here are a few of my favorite books:
Their Eyes Were Watching God is an amazing love story. My step-mom just texted me the other day after reading this book and told me how blown away she was by Hurston's work. I couldn't agree more.
This book is not for the faint hearted. But part of me feels like it should be required reading if we are to truly understand and appreciate our country's dark history with regard to slavery.
I could read Maya Angelou all day long. This is her first in a series of memoirs.
And finally, this is a collection of personal essays written by Alice Walker during the years that she was a lonely woman writer trying to excavate the long-lost voices of African American literature. Some of her essays are too political for my tastes, but the first section of the book in particular has become one of the guiding lights in my own quest as a writer. Her prose is exquisite, and her thoughts on being a woman, a writer, and trying to be part of something bigger than your own self have profoundly influenced my life. I based my entire master's thesis on her essay, "In Search of Our Mothers' Gardens."
I have some other Black History tidbits to post later on, but for now I'll just say that my experience is that every effort we make to reach out makes a difference. It doesn't matter if you aren't black, if you don't have any black friends, or if you've never once considered black history as a very February-sort of thing to do. Nehru said that "Culture is the widening of the mind and of the spirit." I love the image that this quote brings to mind, the possibility of widening my spirit. But mostly, I just hope that the greatly under-appreciated black history lessons that I'm bequeathing to my family will eventually mean something. "Mom's crazy," is probably what it will mean, but still. It's worth a try and it's fun, in a nerdy sort of way.