From live virtual talks to book lists dedicated to Black authors to social studies lessons, there are many ways to learn about and celebrate Black History Month all around Mt. Lebanon.
Black History Month was started in 1926, when historian Carter G. Woodson established Negro Week. Beginning in 1976, President Gerald Ford officially declared February as Black History Month—a tradition that has continued ever since.
And, while the month provides a special time to look back and celebrate the large role of African Americans in U.S. history, many across Mt. Lebanon said Black history is something that needs to be celebrated year round.
“We are trying to move towards saying Black history happens all the time,” said Sharon Bruni, associate director for public services at the Mt. Lebanon Public Library.
Black History is American History
At the Mt. Lebanon Public Library, Bruni said, there is a constant push to ensure everyone—from speakers to book selections—are representative of all.
“For us, this year in general is going to be an extension of something that we have been working on and trying to improve over the last several years, and that is just trying to incorporate into our daily practices more programs that are featuring people that are of color and of different perspectives—that we kind of make that what the library is about,” Bruni said. “It’s all a part of just becoming better…. We need to be mindful that our programs and our collections are representative.”
In Mt. Lebanon School District, Jocelyn Artinger, principal at Markham Elementary who also serves as the social studies coordinator for the district’s elementary schools, encouraged teachers to “strive to celebrate and teach history in a way that affirms the Black community (and all marginalized communities really) rather than inadvertently only highlighting the collective oppression,” she wrote in the district’s January communication to elementary social studies teachers, that provided numerous ways to celebrate African American culture in the classroom—and even included an optional professional development for the teachers themselves. “There are many stories to be told.”
The elementary schools in the district partnered with the high school group, Lebo Students for Curriculum Diversity, for Black History Month, where the older students will read stories to the younger from Black authors and about Black history. Artinger also pushes for inclusive learning year-round. During her “Principal’s Book of the Month Read Along” she has read books about Martin Luther King Jr. and ones that celebrated International Day of Disabilities in the last two months, alone. The goal next year is to look through the elementary social studies curriculum and ensure that it highlights people of all cultures and backgrounds. This even includes educating the teachers.
“We show students what we value by the time that we place on (a subject),” she said. “We really want to be thinking critically about how we can incorporate (all cultures) into our curriculum. Whether its Black history, native history or Hispanic history, it’s all American history…. Having these continued conversations is so important.”
At their January meeting, Mt. Lebanon Commissioners also recognized the importance of the month.
“Families are the backbone of every community, and Black families are an important part of the tapestry of Mt. Lebanon. As we embark on Black History Month, we want to take the opportunity of this occasion to read, learn, and to recognize the important contributions that Black families make in our nation, our commonwealth, and to the special character of Mt. Lebanon,” the commissioners said in a statement.
What can you do?
There are activities scheduled across the community that will help you learn and celebrate Black history in America. Here’s a sampling of things going on in the community for Black History Month:
- Celebrate Black History Month online: The Mt. Lebanon Public Library has created a one-stop shop for you to find the best reads and events for Black History Month. Visit their specially-crafted Black History Month website for all the details. Also, Bruni recommends signing up for the library’s e-newsletter that will feature Black authors and historians throughout the month.
- Virtual programming: Sean Gibson, the great-grandson of baseball Hall of Fame legend Josh Gibson will present “Negro Leagues Baseball: Josh Gibson, Homestead Grays and the Pittsburgh Crawfords” on Wednesday, February 17 at 7 p.m. “He’s going to talk about his great-grandfather and just about how this history has evolved and pretty much it is an act of correcting racism on the major league’s part,” Bruni said. The library also will feature pianist Tom Roberts ,who will present “Why Louis Armstrong Matters” on Wednesday February 24 at 7 p.m.
- Reading list: Incorporate Black authors and Black history into your reading with this list crafted by the Mt. Lebanon Public Library.
- Evening book chat: Bruni and Sarah McGowan will be highlighting titles that celebrate Black voices in fiction and non-fiction during their Friday evening book chat on February 5 at 5 p.m.
- Children’s Black History Month Celebrations: The Mt. Lebanon Public Library staff will share work from celebrated African American authors during the week of February 7. Also, you can join the Heinz History Center for its program on the Underground Railroad—geared for kids in second grade and older—on Tuesday, February 23 at 4 p.m.
Know of additional Black History Month celebrations? Let us know about them in the comments.