Planting seeds

A reading journey celebrating Black History Month


Feb. 1 marks the beginning of Black History Month. This is an important opportunity to learn, grow, and lead. It is an invitation to learn about the valuable contributions of Black leaders in shaping the course of U.S. history. Our nonprofit, Planting People Growing Justice, visits schools during Black History Month to read our collection of diverse books and share key lessons from history. During each of our Black History Month visits, I start with the question: “Who founded Black History Month?” Over the years, I have yet to hear a correct answer from students, parents, teachers, or administrators. I receive a range of answers from Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., to Rosa Parks, or even Ruby Bridges. Some local Saint Paul students have even called out: Mayor Melvin Carter III. I applaud the initiative to share these responses since this is a remarkable list of Black leaders. Yet, these responses reflect an imminent need to educate our youth about the origins of Black History Month
Black History Month was founded by Dr. Carter G. Woodson. He was a historian and author who established the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History during the summer of 1915. Later in 1926, Dr. Woodson launched Negro History Week. His goal was to celebrate and honor Black achievements and build a legacy of change.
Throughout February, I will continue my mission of visiting schools, donating Black books, and teaching lessons on Black History Month. I will begin by sharing about the 2024 theme which is: African Americans and the Arts. This signifies the important role of Black creatives in using the arts to reimagine the world and build a brighter future. In addition, I will introduce unsung Black heroes and sheroes who are featured in my latest books.
Have you heard of the Underground Railroad conductor who helped to free 1,000 enslaved African Americans?
John P. Parker was born into slavery, but he believed freedom was a birthright – no one had the right to own another human being. His passion for justice led him to not only buy his freedom, but also help others gain theirs.
Parker was a conductor on the Underground Railroad in Ohio. He would cross the Ohio River into Kentucky to help enslaved people gain their freedom. This work was very dangerous, and Parker could have been imprisoned or killed. But he took the risk time and time again. Between 1845 and 1865, he helped free about 1,000 enslaved people.
Did you know there was a group of Black healthcare professionals known as the “Flying Black Medics” that flew to deliver services to communities in need?
Dr. Leonidas Berry comes from a long legacy of activists who see a problem and work with others to create a solution. Dr. Berry fought for equal access to healthcare for African Americans. In the 1960s, he worked with a team to create the “Flying Black Medics.” The group of medical professionals flew from Chicago, Ill. to a poor community in Cairo, Ill. They delivered medicine and offered treatment. They also built a medical clinic
Did you know the first Black female U.S. Secretary of State previously served as a national security advisor?
Condoleezza Rice grew up during segregation in Birmingham, Ala. There was a constant threat of violence from White racists. Her childhood friend was a victim of the bombing at the 16th Street Baptist Church in 1963. She was determined to reach her dream of obtaining a quality education. Her parents taught her that education would open up windows of opportunity. She worked twice as hard to reach this dream. From 2001 to 2005, Rice worked as a National Security Advisor. Then she was appointed to the U.S. Secretary of State in 2005. She served in this role until 2009. She advised the president on foreign policies and helped to address conflicts globally.
Black History Month is an invitation to learn more about United States history. These book recommendations can serve as resources on your learning journey:
• “Black Achievements in Activism: Celebrating Leonidas H. Berry, Marley Dias, and More,” by Dr. Artika R. Tyner, Lerner (2023)
• “Black Achievements in Politics: Celebrating Shirley Chisholm, Barack Obama, and More,” by Dr. Artika R. Tyner, Lerner (2023)
• “The Untold Story of John P. Parker (First But Forgotten)” by Dr. Artika R. Tyner, Capstone (2023)
For additional book recommendations, you can visit:
Through her organization, Planting People Growing Justice Leadership Institute, Dr. Artika Tyner seeks to plant seeds of social change through education, training, and community outreach.


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