Those three words have power, value, and emotion. Though the story of Black History Month began in 1915, it was not officially recognized until 1976 when President Gerald Ford officially recognized Black History Month, calling upon Americans to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.” Want to read more? Check this out.
.Black History Month is a special "pause" in our year to reflect and celebrate the vast musical contributions of Black and/or African Americans, but it should not be the only time our students see themselves represented and reflected in the music we use in our classrooms.
Things to Consider
- Where is my focus? Who and what am I celebrating and honoring? Personally, I do not want to be the white teacher telling a single narrative about Black and/or African Americans as slaves and that they are only worthy of celebrating when talking about slavery or the Civil Rights Movement. How does this impact our students view of musicians and composers who are Black and/or African American?
- Sing, listen, and teach about music from a broad perspective; spirituals and Civil Rights songs are valuable, but they are not the only music to be celebrated and learned.
- If we teach these songs we should keep our community and parents informed of our intention to teach about slavery. I have known many music teachers who begin to go down this path and receive emails and phone calls from upset parents who have not discussed slavery with their child and now they are forced into a conversation they were unprepared to have.
- For me, I want my students to celebrate, honor and learn about Duke Ellington, BB King, Billie Holiday, Scott Joplin, Ella Fitzgerald, Leontyne Price, and Miles Davis. I also want them to celebrate, honor, and learn about Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Wonder, Nina Simone, Queen Latifah, Tina Turner, Alicia Keys, John Legend, Denyce Graves, Black Violin, Rihanna, The String Queens, will.i.am, Ne-Yo, Rhiannon Giddens, and Ranky Tanky, (who just won a Grammy and are amazing - listen to this podcast and you'll see why I love them for elementary aged students).
- Sister Rosetta Tharpe - do you know her name? I didn't until this past year. Learning about her was eye-opening and a bit shocking- how did I NOT know her name until now? She was a pioneer and laid the foundations for Rock 'n Roll. Read more about her here from NPR.
Here are some of the things my students and I will be using throughout the year, not only during the month of February.
Rap a Tap Tap: Here's Bojangles - Think of That
Change repetitive words to "Rap, Tap, Tap, Think of That". (3 quarter notes, 1 quarter rest, repeat same rhythm).
I use this with Kindergarten students after we first do some movement preparation to "Superstition" by Stevie Wonder.
1. Read Book, encourage students to speak repetitive words, "Rap, tap, tap, think of that".
3. Videos - Tap Dancing Group - I like this one - you will only watch until 1:20.
Next I show Savion Glover - this is such a cool commercial- just skip the end (commercial for a fridge).
How to Tap- this is really good for my younger kiddos - very slow, sequential. We only watch to about 3:00 and we stand up and practice tapping.
4. Then I break out the Heart Chart and we go back to the book of Bojangles - the Heart Chart is amazing and many music teachers have them or something like them - it is the perfect way to introduce quarter and eighth notes. Once we have explored, ""Rap, tap, tap, think of that" and learned how to clap it, etc. and have discovered quarter notes, we tap it on rhythm sticks. That leads into eighth notes, and before we know it we are reading stick rhythms with quarter and eighth notes.
Ruby Sings the Blues
I love the animated video here with jazz music in the background. It is really well done!
Great lesson to go with this from my friend Charissa! Check it out here.
Another great animated video by PBS!
There are so many other books I use! Here are several:
Songs to Celebrate and Sing
Let's Slice the Ice - A Collection of Black Children's Ring Games and Chants by Eleanor Fulton and Pat Smith, available from West Music.
Step it Down: Games, Songs, Plays, and Stories from the Afro-American Heritage by Bessie Jones and Bess Lomax Hawes, available here from Amazon.
(not a complete list)
Head and Shoulders, Baby
Just from the Kitchen
I Got a Letter this Morning
Green Sally Up
Go In and Out the Window
Draw Me a Bucket of Water
Little Sally Walker
Miss Mary Mack
- Who is Making Music for Black Children
- SecretAgent 23skidoo.com - mixing Hip Hop and Mozart on Mozartistic, the first 2:20 is about the making of the song.
- NPR's Code Switch has a Playlist for Black History Month
- Decolonizing the Music Room Songs and Stories
Hope this was informative! More to come next week!