Seek Out Tulsa Trailblazers: Black History 365
February is Black History Month, which is a time reserved to acknowledge and celebrate the contributions made by Black heroes throughout history. When I was in elementary school, I remember celebrating Black History Month by recognizing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks. As times are changing, the list of people we celebrate is growing, but I can’t help but think we are missing the mark as a community. The remembrance of Black History Month is not only meaningful for the African American community, but imperative for the greater understanding of U.S. and world history.
Oklahoma’s Black history has been censored and omitted from textbooks. Curriculum typically focuses on Black leaders who have endured suffering and sacrifice. While those leaders are extremely important, we can’t forget to honor changemakers in our local community. Here are a few suggestions about how to celebrate Black History Month in February and throughout the year, using our local resources and working with community members who are making a true difference.
Read and Learn:
Stock up your home and classroom library with books representing African Americans. One of my favorites is Now You’re It: Journaling to Perseverance: An Interactive Journal Highlighting the Achievements of African Americans while Encouraging Literacy, Critical Thinking, Perseverance, Diversity, and Inclusion. This journal/workbook offers well over a month’s worth of activities that you can do with your children and students.
Watch and Learn:
Can Kids Change the World: Black History Month for Kids is a YouTube video that shows Oklahoma children making a difference by making their community more inclusive.
Additionally, our local theater, Circle Cinema, will play various African American movies in February, which will include an art gallery and the CROWN documentary, with live entertainment from the Tulsa community.
Play and Learn:
Black Wall Street: The Board Game is a Black history and entrepreneurship family board game created by De’Von Truvel and Sinclair.
Additionally, Tulsa Trailblazers: Black History 365 is a scavenger hunt/bingo game that is a huge hit with children of all ages. This game encourages children to get involved in their community while learning about different career paths and entrepreneurship through local African American heroes. Each community member talks to the children about their journey as leaders and entrepreneurs, gives them words of encouragement and ends the visit with a hands-on activity.
Here are a few adventures our scavenger hunt led my 11-year-old son, Keith Ross, and his friends to:
Heal and Learn:
Dr. Chris McNeil gave all the children white doctors’ coats to wear during their OSU Center for Health Sciences tour.
Nurse practitioner Anita Williams-Murrell, founder of A&M Healthcare Clinic LLC, taught students how to do vital signs.
Billie, owner of Black Wall Street Market, showed students how to garden.
The children were amazed to meet former UFC fighter Gerald “Hurricane” Harris at the Hurricane Training Center. Gerald gave words of encouragement, gave them a boxing lesson and let them watch his professional boxing reel.
Shop and Learn:
The children learned about Black Wall Street from tour guide Terry Baccus and visited the Black Wall Street Corner Store & More, where they shopped. Owner and founder Angela Robinson talked to them about the importance of supporting the community.
Cleo Harris, owner of Black Wall St. Tees and Souvenirs, showed the children the history of Black Wall Street through his murals.
DuEwa Gordon, founder and owner of ISCENTS, DIY Candle Bar, helped the children make their own candles.
Eat and Learn:
We visited and talked to Roy Tillis, owner of Waffle That, where he surprised the children with the best waffles of their lives.
Mack’s Wings’ owners, Michael and Kimberly Manning, shared their famous lemon pepper wings, and owner of Zoe Cakes Unlimited, Misty Thomas, let the children get creative by decorating cupcakes.
Serve and Learn:
We visited the Tulsa Police Department, where Officers Roy Owens and Steven Howard talked to the children about their experience as police officers, the importance of making the right decisions and how to overcome adversity.
We also visited Judge Tanya Wilson at the Tulsa County Courthouse. The Honorable Tanya Wilson allowed the children to conduct a mock trial in her courtroom, and they watched a real-life court session.
We visited Naomi Keitt at Channel 2 News, where the children had a tour of the newsroom and practiced reading the teleprompter.
We also visited 89.9 KBOB. Jennifer Brown, radio personality of The Perspective, spoke to children of the importance of thought-provoking topics that affect the community, and Bobby Eaton allowed the children to broadcast live on the radio.
Entertain and Learn:
The children visited the Broken Arrow Community Playhouse and met Stephanie Rose. Stephanie facilitated acting activities on stage and gave each child their own headshot.
Additionally, we can’t mention entertainment and learning without mentioning the legendary Playya 1000 and the Deekesta. The children visited their studio and freestyled a song. The kids loved being on the microphone and the feel of the studio. They were so proud of their finished product. My favorite thing about the studio experience was how the group that put Oklahoma on the Hip Hop map talked to the children about the importance of clean, inspirational music, which feeds the listener’s soul.
In the era of education censoring and omitting marginalized people from the public-school curriculum, it’s important we continue to seek out educational opportunities outside our schools and inside our local communities. We have some amazing jewels in our own backyard. It’s important to recognize our past, but it’s equally important to celebrate our present and future, especially during Black History Month.
Dr. Tamecca Rogers is Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Tulsa Technology Center. She is a writer and mom to three boys who love adventures.