Updated: Feb 6
Black History Month is about paying homage to leaders, inventors, activists, entertainment and so much more for paving the way for us. Black History Month is not about inclusion and I'm exhausted with hearing of this from those who don't understand the history. As the years pass, Black History is being removed from my son's history lessons. As his parents, we do what we can to provide him with as much education as we possibly can. In addition to annual Black History Month trips, we allow him and his friends to transform into anyone they choose for the culture. But we don't stop there. Its purpose is to allow them to learn about someone new each year. We are more than a Halloween post. We are more than the 29 days that are observed this year. This is us EVERYDAY. We are raising natural born leaders. Get into it.
Can I add that they are all so stinking cute? We'd love to have your kids join us next year.
Who am I and what is my story?
Well, I was born January 26, 1892 in the small town of Atlanta, Texas. I had 12 other siblings and my parents ( Susan and George Coleman) both worked as sharecroppers. My dad moved back to Oklahoma to escape the segregation of Texas and I stayed behind with my mom in Waxahachie. I helped her pick cotton and I eventually raised enough money to attend the Colored Agricultural and Normal University. Many of you now know it as Langston University. I didn’t get to stay though, I simply couldn’t afford it.
I moved to Chicago to live with my brothers in 1915 where I worked as a manicurist. My brothers at the time served in the military during WWI. My brother John would tease me often because women in France were allowed to be pilots. My brothers had such great stories about them, I knew then that aviation was my path. Unfortunately, I was denied entry to aviation schools all over the United States because I was a woman and I was Black. I met a famous African American newspaper publisher by the name of Robert Abbott. He encouraged me to move to France and chase my dreams and I did just that. I took French classes at night so my applications into flight schools could be written in French as required. I was accepted into the Caudron Brother’s School of Aviation and on June 15, 1921 I received my license. The program was 10 months long program but I finished I in just 7 months.
I eventually returned back to the United States where I specialized in stunt flying, parachuting, barnstorming and preforming aerial tricks. I became the first African American woman in America to make a public flight. I used my status and platform to give speeches all over and I refused to speak anywhere that remained segregated.
My time was cut short on April 30, 1926 during a test flight with a mechanic named William Wills. Wills was piloting and a wrench got stuck the aircraft engine when he lost control and our plane crashed. I never did get to fulfill my dreams of opening an aviation school for African Americans but in 1977, African American female pilots formed an Aviators Club named after me. I am a world famous aviator, an activist for women and for African Americans. I am Elizabeth “Bessie” Coleman (portrayed by Chloe).
WHO AM I?
Sylvia Robinson (portrayed by Parker) at the age of 14, debuted singing Blues with trumpet player Hot Lips Page and started recording music in 1950 for Columbia Records. She was taught to play guitar by her co-artist Mickey Baker. They performed a duo called "Love is Strange" in 1956. Sylvia is best known for her work as founder and CEO of Sugar-HIll Records Hip-Hop label.
WHO AM I?
Ralph Johnson Bunche (portrayed by Israel) is considered to be a consummate diplomat by many. He worked hard to negotiate and lead numerous peacekeeping initiatives in his lifetime. One might say that he was born for his role; from the beginning on August 7th in 1904 in the heart of Detroit, his life experiences shaped him. Bunche was an academic and political scientist who fused his giftedness into a unique approach; to include perceptive interpersonal skills and rare analytical prowess. These talents led to his being essential to the United Nations as a founder and administrator. Noteworthy mediation accomplishments include successfully navigating crises in parts of the Middle East (Israel, Yemen, Bahrain) and Africa (Egypt, Congo). Ralph J. Bunche’s outcomes were tremendously impressive; and garnered so much traction that he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1950. Bunche was the first African American to receive this prestigious honor; and we salute him!
Israel is representing for Mr. Bunche for a number of reasons; but foremost is his early display of personality. This includes negotiation skills; as they are essential to making diplomatic moves! Additionally, his maternal grandparents met, matriculated through, and experienced the dawn of young love at Ralph J. Bunche Elementary school in Metairie, LA. From his personal legacy to his global impact to the lineage that stemmed from a building named in his honor; Bunche will forever carry fond sentiments amongst Israel and his family.
“Hearts are the strongest when they beat in response to noble ideals.”
“To make our way, we must have firm resolve, persistence, tenacity. We must gear ourselves to work hard all the way. We can never let up.”
WHO AM I?
My name is Tommie Smith (portrayed by Carl). When you look me up, I am the Black man who silently held up his fist in the 1968 Summer Olympics.
I am my parents 7th of 12 children and I was born June 6, 1944 in Clarksville, Texas. I graduated from Lemoore High School in California and I held most of the schools records in track, some of them still remain today. My athletic achievements afforded me a scholarship to San José University where I continued to set records such as a wold best of 19.5 seconds in a 200 m straight. That record would remain unbroken until May 16, 2010 by Tyson Gay.
In the summer of 1968 my teammate John Carlos and myself traveled to the Summer Olympics in Mexico. What some did not know, was that I had an injured hamstring going into the 200 m final. In that race, I had rocky start but I eventually was able to charge past my teammate John and win that race. As a member of the Olympic Project for Human Rights (OPHR) I advocated for the boycott of the 1968 Mexico City Olympic Games. I wanted South Africa and Rhodesia uninvited from the Olympics, the restoration of Muhammad Ali’s heavyweight boxing title, Avery Bridge to step down as the president of International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the hiring for more African American assistant coaches. When the boycott didn’t produce the results we had hoped for, I changed my approach. I raised my fist while during the national anthem of the Olympic medal ceremony. I was displaying a silent protest of the ongoing civil rights injustices that were happening back home in America. John Carlos and I wore black gloves, our beads were a direct protest to lynchings and we went barefoot in black socks to protest poverty.
In my lifetime I have been a track star, a WR for the Cincinnati Bengals and I event taught sociology at Oberlin College in Ohio. I have received numerous awards for my activism and John Carlos and I have become symbols of what silent protest looks like.
Several times I’ve been asked, what was I doing and/or thinking in that moment. My response is - “Praying.” “I was praying underneath the bleachers, I was praying on the walk up to the victory stand, and the entire time I was up there.” It was not a "Black Power Salute" as has been written on numerous occasions. It was a "human rights salute" more than anything else.
I am Dr. Tommie Smith
WHO AM I?
Born July 2, 1908, in Baltimore, Maryland. I graduated High School from Frederick Douglass a year early with a B-grade average. This landed me at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania. As a child my father taught me how to debate and would take my brother and me to watch court cases. Although my father never told me to become a lawyer, he eventually turned me into one. In 1933, I graduated first in class from Howard University and later started a private law practice in Baltimore. During this time I represented in the case Murray v. Pearson, a black Amherst college graduate who wanted to attend a segregated establishment but was denied admission. At age 32 I founded and became the executive director of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. By age 53 President John F. Kennedy appointed me to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second circuit and remained on the court until 1965. On June 13, 1967, President Johnson nominated me to the Supreme Court. This made me the 96th person to hold the position, and the first African American. I remained on the Supreme Court until my retirement in 1991 due to declining health. On January 24, 1993, at the age of 84 I was survived by my second wife and two sons due to heart failure.
I AM: Thurgood Marshall (portrayed by Seth)
WHO AM I?
Howard P. Perry (portrayed by Paden) broke a 167 year tradition when he became the 1st African-American enlisted US Marine Corps in 1942. He was a member of the 51st Composite Defense Battalion in New, NC. He was ranked as Private 1st Class Food Specialist. He served from 1942 until 1944.
WHO AM I?
Shawn "Jay-Z" Carter (portrayed by Jesse) was born on December 4th, 1969. He is known to the world as Jay-Z. He is a successful rapper, songwriter, producer, entrepreneur, and record label. But, to my mom, he is the best rapper ALIVE. He was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. Over his lifetime, he has top of the charts songs and even started his own clothing line, Roc-A-Wear. He is a rap mogul and one day I aspire to be at the top of the game just like him.
WHO AM I?
Emmett Till (portrayed by Drew) was born on July 25, 1941, in Chicago, Illinois and attended McCosh elementary school. Emmett Till’s nickname was “Bobo” and he was a very responsible kid. While visiting family in Mississippi when he was 14 years old, he was falsely accused of flirting with a white woman. He was then kidnapped, beaten and lynched by white supremacists and he died on August 28, 1955, in Money, Mississippi. Emmett Till’s casket is on display at the National Museum of African-American history in Washington DC.
WHO AM I?
Wangari Maathai (portrayed by Livia) was born in Kenya in 1940 and was the first woman in East and Central Africa to earn a Ph.D in anatomy after earning her biological sciences degree. She founded the Green Belt Movement, which focused on the environment and reduction of poverty. In 2004 she won the Nobel Peace Prize and was the first African woman to ever receive the prize.
“We cannot tire or give up. We owe it to the present and future generations of all species to rise up and walk!"
WHO AM I?
Jesse Owens (portrayed by Decklan), (born September 12, 1913, Oakville, Alabama, U.S.—died March 31, 1980, Phoenix, Arizona), was an American track-and-field athlete who set a world record in the long jump that stood for 25 years and who won four gold medals at the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin. His four Olympic victories were a blow to Adolf Hitler’s intention to use the Games to demonstrate Aryan superiority. He married Minnie Ruth Solomon in 1935 and remained married to her until is death. They had three children.
setting or tying national records in the long jump and the 100- and 200-yard dashes at East Technical High School in Cleveland, Owens was also a standout in college at Ohio State University. There, he became known as "The Buckeye Bullet." While competing at the 1935 Big 10 Championships, he broke world records in the long jump, the 220-yard dash, the 220-yard low hurdles, and tied a previous record in the 100-yard dash. As a junior, he won all 42 events he competed in, including four events at the NCAA Championships, four at the Big 10 Championships, and three at the Olympic Trials.
It is believed that at the 1936 Olympics Adolf Hitler snubbed Jesse Owens but Owens has told a different story. Owens himself has stated that it was actually President Franklin D. Roosevelt who slighted him. The U.S. President never acknowledged Owen's achievements in Berlin or invited him to the White House, when such an invitation was common for Olympic champions. "I wasn't invited to shake hands with Hitler," said Owens, "but I wasn't invited to the White House to shake hands with the President, either." His achievements weren't formally recognized until 1976, when President Gerald Ford awarded him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Other interesting facts:
Jesse Owens was born James Cleveland Owens. After James his family moved to Cleveland, Ohio when he was 9 years old, a new teacher gave him the nickname Jesse. His Southern accent caused her to misinterpret him when he said "J.C.", which was his family's nickname for him.
The day after his 5th birthday, Owens developed a large fibrous bump on his chest that started to press against his lungs. Since Owens’ mother was unable to afford a doctor, she used a sterilized kitchen knife to perform the surgery herself. She carved into her son’s chest and remove a golf-ball sized growth. Owens ended up losing a lot of blood, but he survived.
WHO AM I?
Spike Lee (portrayed by Corey)
Director. Writer. Film Editor. Actor.
Spike Lee has directed over 40 movies and tv shows, many he wrote himself but is under recognized by the Academy Awards. He had complete control over his films which lead the way for other black filmmakers and directors. Since some of his films dealt with uncomfortable subjects, they didn't always get the recognition they deserved.
One thing I learned from Spike Lee is everyone is not going to recognize your achievements but you should keep doing what makes you happy.
Favorite Spike Lee Movie: Michael Jackson's Journey from Motown to Off the Wall
WHO AM I?
Martin Luther King, Jr. (portrayed by Andrew), was an important person from our past. He changed the world by giving lots of speeches about his dream. He believed that people should not be treated badly because of the color of their skin nor the way they looked.
Martin Luther King, Jr. had a wife and four kids. Once, his house in Montgomery, Alabama was bombed because he was telling people don’t ride the bus. The city leaders only let Black people sit in the back of the bus, but Rosa Parks didn’t want to give up her seat. She said, “No. Nah.” King and Rosa Parks were really good friends.
King’s most important speech was called, “I Have A Dream” in Washington, D.C. It was one of the most famous speeches in history and he used a lot of microphones because there were 250,000 people there. That was a lot of people!
Because of Martin Luther King, Jr. people started being treated the way they were supposed to be. And the laws were changed so Black people could eat at any restaurant, they could go to any park and any school.
WHO AM I?
Dak Prescott (portrayed by Luke) is the second Black quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys and the first Black quarterback to lead them to the Super Bowl. His real name is Rayne Dakota Prescott and he was born Sulphur, Louisiana. He has three brothers and one sister.
Dak went to college at Mississippi State University. He got drafted in 2016 to be a backup quarterback. Then Tony Romo got hurt and Dak became the starting quarterback and he’s been the starting quarterback ever since.
Dak’s mom died from cancer seven years ago. He started a charity to honor her and to help other people with cancer. Dak is a great quarterback and a great role model.
WHO AM I?
Janet Jackson (portrayed by Rowan) is one of the most celebrated and successful performers of our time. She has produced artistically and commercially relevant work that spans four decades, earning a host of accolades: 180 million records sold, 5 Grammys, 11 Billboard Music Awards, 11 American Music Awards, and more.
Every pioneering artist influences generations after them, and Janet is no different. She’s opened lanes for Black women, and even women who aren’t Black still aspire to her level of creative autonomy and influence. She redefined the art of the music video, in part by pushing contemporary boundaries in songs like “If” and “Got ‘Til It’s Gone.” Her industry-defining choreography with women at the center has inspired artists from Aaliyah and Britney Spears to contemporary acts like Ciara and FKA Twigs.
Furthermore, Janet created space for LGBT folks and HIV awareness. Her iconic album Rhythm Nation addressed problems that we still face 30 years later, such as racism, homelessness, and gun violence.
Enjoy a collage of these amazing children and some of their parents! Y'all, shine so bright and never allow anyone to dim your light! - LJK
Rest in heaven