Halloween is not one of my favorite holidays. Gasp, I know. Especially in my neighborhood where the spooky décor can rival that of a screenshot from Christmas Vacation with Chevy Chase. I also kind of despise spending money on costumes, but I have 2 little kids and I must do my parental duty. However, this year I am excited. We are celebrating Black excellence and dressing up as inspirational people from history.
Before you decide that I am a party pooper and not letting the kids be kids here me out.
Kid number one. A boisterous and dominate six-year-old girl. She rules the roost and is not too shy to tell you about it. One of her favorite books is called African Princesses. It is filled with stories of courageous women smashing traditional gender roles and ruling unapologetically. So, for my daughter I chose Queen Nzinga as her costume. A graceful woman who demanded respect and stopped the colonial invasion of the Dutch in her land. When denied a proper throne during a meeting with her military allies because they deemed an African woman not worthy, she had the men in her court bow down and allow her to sit upon them as a make shift throne. It’s a perfect match, right?
It was easy to convince her that this real-life person was much cooler than the zombie cheerleader she had her heart set on. And with that we went to work. I am a seamstress and I routinely make things from African fabric so I already had what I needed. We made a sarong, cape and a crown. It turned out amazing and she is really happy with it. The most important part about this whole idea is that besides having a great costume she is using her knowledge in a practical way and the story of Queen Nzinga will stay with her and inspire her for years to come.
Kid number two. A daredevil of a child who speaks few words but has a very distinct opinion and specific interest. For him I chose a Tuskegee Airman. These men were Black American Military pilots who fought successfully in World War II despite the overwhelming challenges of Jim Crow and a segregated armed forces. (My grandfather was a Mumford Point Marine, by the way, and was awarded a medal of honor for being one the first African Americans to serve in the Marines.)
My son and I can watch 100 movies with daring fighter pilots and action heroes, but yet still struggle to see relatable characters who look like us. I chose to give him the memory of being a real-life hero of color who excelled in his own particular area of interest, which happens to be planes. What could be better than that?
As I tell my older kids all the time, you have to earn your knowledge. It is not just enough to have someone tell you what is important. In order to fully process and understand what you are learning so that it becomes an asset to you in the future you must work for it. Research it, apply it and relate it to your own experiences. That is the only way facts become an inherent intelligence. So why not find a way to make it as fun as possible.