KIPP Liberation College Preparatory School Leader Tai Ingram shares her reflections on Black History Month.
1) How do you self-reflect on your own racial and cultural identity?
Growing-up as an Army brat, each time I moved to a new school I had to complete the standard demographic survey. I always checked the “Black” box, mainly because the world saw me as Black. I strongly associated myself with African American culture, and I can honestly not remember ever having the opportunity to select anything related to mix-heritage or “Black Latino.” The truth was that I came from a multi-ethnic and multi-cultural family, for which it was not uncommon to see collard greens platted next to homemade tamales or fried plantains. A mixing pot of culture flows through my veins and is now very obviously represented on my beautiful daughter’s smiling face. As an adolescent and young adult, I never had second thoughts about checking the “Black” box, but now as an educator and a mother, I don’t want my daughter to ever feel that her racial and cultural identify can or should fit into a simple demographic box. My prayer is that I will show her the beauty of all of the cultures that make her a mosaic of strength. Notably, I want my daughter and my students to walk through this world proudly knowing that all that is Black culture and heritage could never possibly fit into any single box.
2) In what ways have you tried to stress the importance of Black History Month to your school's students?
At KIPP Liberation, we believe that Black History is everyone’s history. We are blessed to have a student population that is 51% African American and 48% Latino. We are intentional about celebrating the cultures that make our campus whole. We feel that it is important that our students learn about the intersectionality of African and Latino heritage. All of my students are currently diving deep into social justice units in their ELA classes. They are studying the works of Dr. King, Malcom X, Fredrick Douglass, Carter G. Woodson, Maya Angelou, and Langston Hughes. They are exploring the teachings of Ghandi, Mother Teresa, Dali Lama, Malala Yousafzai, Cesar Chavez, Dolores Huerta and Desmond Tutu. My students are also examining the impact and influence of Jim Crow laws, Nelson Mandela, the Freedom Riders, and current civil/human rights movements across our country and the globe. Outside of their ELA classes, they are also engaging in an African Heritage research project in all of their social studies classes: 5th grade African American Social and Political Leaders, 6th Global Leaders of African Descent, 7th African American Leaders in Texas History, and in 8th my students are researching African American Scientists and Inventors.
3) What kind of stories do you share with your students that help them understand their identities?
At Liberation, we push students to examine their own cultural and ethnic heritage. It is important that they ask their parents and grandparents about their family background including all of the success and struggles that have formed the fabric of their family. Liberation students will capstone their year with an NPR This I Believe unit in ELA. They will listen to and read lots of short essays that express the fundamental beliefs our cultural heroes, icons and everyday people. Students will draft, revise, publish, record and submit their own This I Believe essay. We want them to tell the world their story.