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Yes to Black History Month

It was the first week of February and, like most typical weekday mornings, I was rushing to get my girls to school.  As I dropped off , my youngest daughter, the director of her day care pulled me aside to find out whether I was planning to get her African heritage portrait taken. They were setting up now, she said, and I hadn’t filled out a form.

I honestly planned on opting out. But with this conscious or subconscious nudge, I said yes. I don’t know why I was thinking about skipping the heritage picture, being Black History Month and all.  But as I thought about it, I’d always been a little skeptical about the holiday.

Now don’t get me wrong, I believe there should be a time to celebrate African American heritage, but I prefer not to get caught up in the logistics of it being designated to a particular month. And the fact that I always hear the same focal points of our history during this time had been a turn off.

A few days later, however, one of the teachers at the day care approached me about painting the backdrop for the African American History program. She offered to help me paint it as she handed me a picture of a William H. Johnson painting of Harlem during the Renaissance. I said yes but told her I could handle it by myself, thinking his style is pretty loose and that it wouldn’t take me long to paint.

Then the next week a parent approached me at my oldest daughter’s school. She let me know that she would be doing a presentation to her son’s Kindergarten class on the Tuskegee Airman and Bessie Coleman (the first black female pilot). She encouraged me to do something in for my oldest daughter’s first-grade class. I thought about it and then e-mailed the teacher, asking whether I could do an art project on Romare Bearden. The teacher was ecstatic, so much so that she asked if I would be willing to do the project with the other first-grade class, too.

“Yes, of course!” I replied.

Then I began to feel the pressure of all my commitments. I was cursing myself out and Black History Month! The weekend before both school events, I began painting the 14 by 7 foot backdrop and preparing for the Bearden project, which meant clipping hundreds of hands, noses, and mouths out of magazines for 40 or so children. Luckily my father was in town to help and a few moms (thanks) saw me fluttering and also volunteered to give me a hand.

In the end, the Bearden project was a hit. My daughter’s classmates learned about an amazing artist and even made their own rendition of a Bearden masterpiece.

Next, I went with my husband to a really cute preschool program on the Harlem Renaissance, where I saw my youngest, with a large red flower in her hair, sing a Billie Holiday solo.

Hubby and our youngest with the backdrop.

Most importantly, I really enjoyed Black History Month this year.  I am so grateful to that wise parent at Skye’s school who asked me, “If we don’t celebrate black history, then who will?” And though I may need to say no a little more often. I will always say yes to Black History Month.

The African Heritage portrait

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17 Comments Post a comment
  1. Omg that picture is so cute. Calida what a lovely story.

    March 8, 2012
  2. Ms. Cherie #

    Calida, we couldn’t have done it without you. I thank you so much for being such a big part of our preschool program.
    With love and smiles,
    Ms. Cherie

    March 8, 2012
  3. Calida! That was great thanks for sharing! That pic is so cute of Sage!

    March 8, 2012
  4. Wendy and Margaret #

    What a nice story and pictures. We miss you and the girls. And of course we miss the preschool. The best preschool program that is a celebration of beauty of being an African American. Skye has really grown and Sage looks wonderful in her African attire. (:>)

    March 8, 2012
  5. Wow, Calida!
    All I can say it has been an honor to have you and your family at the Preschool. You continually share your artistic talents with the children and families at From the Heart. You consistently give us a fresh prospective of what we do and why we do, what we do at the school. You are a wise and sagacious woman, with thoughts, words and ideas that belie your age. Thank you for your continual support!
    Betty Luckett

    March 8, 2012
  6. jr gibson #

    I love it Calida! It really touched my heart expecially seeing that beautiful picture of Sage.

    March 8, 2012
  7. Nikki #

    Omg! She is the cutest! Girl, you are a wonderful artist AND storyteller…and the greatest mom! Love it, keep em coming…kiss the fam tell everyone I said hello!

    March 8, 2012
  8. Hi Calida! Beautiful picture and story!

    March 9, 2012
  9. Jawahn #

    Wonderful pics.

    March 10, 2012
  10. Very Nice artwork! Your children will forever cherish your participationand involvement during thier school years. Keep up the great work! Such a lovely family!

    March 10, 2012
  11. dr verda bradley #

    Wonderful story Calida. We as moms always take on more than we should, however the end result of the finish product is more than we could imagine. You do outstanding work and have an excellent result.. That smile says all.

    March 12, 2012
  12. Carol H #

    Absolutely darling… you’ve giving me ideas for next year’s Black History Month. Unfortunately, my grand daughter came home saying, “I’d rather be white, so I don’t have to go with Harriet Tubman.” YIKES!!

    March 12, 2012
    • Wow. I have been thinking about comment all day. I am still trying to figure out how I would respond to that.

      March 12, 2012
  13. What a terrific Bearden inspired art project you shared with Skye and her classmates! That’s a wonderful photo of Skye with her collage. I’m the author of the new children’s picture book, MY HANDS SING THE BLUES – Romare Bearden’s Childhood Journey. I’ve posted some other Bearden inspired collages on my blog: True Tales & A Cherry On Top (under “Kids Artwork” tab). I was wondering if there’s any chance you have any photos (without children) of Skye’s collage or other children’s collages that I could post on my site? And, bravo to you for cutting out all those parts for the collage — I’m a docent at San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and I’ve done just the same when I lead art projects. It takes a lot of time, but it’s worth it!

    March 12, 2012
    • Sounds wonderful! I can’t wait to purchase your book. And I will definitely contact you with pictures of the collages.

      March 12, 2012
  14. I love the pictures!!! I am always happy to read your blog. It sounds like you have a busy month! We feel blessed to have you around. You are an extremely talented women and a beautiful person full of love; This shows in your work. 🙂 I am happy to have you in my life. Miss you!
    Claudia
    PD: please give kisses to the girls. They are as fabulous as their mother.

    March 18, 2012
  15. Joyell #

    Beautiful story and beautiful pictures! I love reading your blogs…you have a way of putting things into perspective and showing how we all have the same struggles, fears and the desire to give all we can to our family. You’re doing a wonderful job 🙂

    Love ya!

    -Joyell

    March 22, 2012

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