Celebrating Black Brilliance Month with Asian American LEAD

By Diana Tran, DC MS Program Coordinator
Images from various AALEAD staff members

Throughout February, Asian American LEAD celebrated Black History Month with the rest of the nation. In the work that we do as a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting low-income and underserved Asian-American Pacific Islander youth, AALEAD seeks to provide opportunities centered on diverse and intersectional narratives. Not only do we want to uplift the voices of the students that we serve, but also introduce and shine a light on the stories and lived experiences of the communities beyond our own four walls.

At the start of the month, AALEAD staff reflected on Black History Month and shared resources to remember and reflect on Black bravery, Black creativity, Black excellence, and Black joy in our nation’s history, present, and future. Black Brilliance Month is not a monolith for famous figures and it is not a celebration that should only be relegated to one month of the year, Black History is our history and we are proud to be partners of solidarity and practitioners of anti-racist, whole-child positive youth development work. Read on to see how we celebrated Black Brilliance Month with our staff and our youth.

During a staff meeting, AALEAD staff members answered two questions:

  1. What feelings or memories does Black History Month elicit for you?
  2. What do you think the legacy of Black History Month is or should be?
**To see more of AALEAD’s Black History Month staff reflection activity, click here.

In Fairfax County, Catherine Han, our Virginia Middle School Program Coordinator, worked with middle school students from Luther Jackson Middle School to celebrate Black Brilliance Month through art.

Photo and quote courtesy of Catherine Han, VA Middle School Program Coordinator

“In honor of Black History Month, and to celebrate Black Brilliance Month, […] youth paid respect to Alma Thomas, a Black artist and educator in the public schools of Washington, D.C. Youth created watercolor paintings in Thomas’s style – abstract expressionism, and realism.”

Youth from our Virginia after-school programs stated that they did not spend a lot of time in the classroom celebrating Black History Month or honoring Black figures. Through AALEAD’s programs, students enjoyed the opportunity to learn more about important Black figures who shaped American history and engage in a fun and creative, hands-on learning opportunity. Want to test your Black history knowledge?

Click on the photo below to access the trivia questions. The answer document is linked on Slide 1 and can also be found by clicking here.

Middle school youth in Washington DC celebrated Black Brilliance Month in a series of events, including Black History Month Trivia Night and BIPOC Solidarity Talk: A Roundtable Discussion. During these workshops, youth explored topics of colorism, discrimination, bias, stereotypes, solidarity, racial identity, and the model minority myth. Most notably, youth were able to identify occurrences within their own lives where they witnessed or experienced racism, microaggressions, and xenophobia. While some may feel that young people do not have enough life experience to hold personal beliefs on these heavier topics, our middle school youth made it clear that their age does not define nor limit their capacity to think, to reflect, to observe the real world, to hold strong opinions, or to engage in critical dialogue:

“Adults sometimes make me feel like we aren’t allowed to talk about certain things.”

“I have never lived in a community where there weren’t a lot of people who were from the same or similar cultural backgrounds as me. I think I would be afraid to leave this space because I am afraid of being judged. I am so used to being so open. I feel scared and awkward thinking about it.”

“BIPOC solidarity is about recognizing that we are all just humans. It’s just wrong to treat people with hate.”

To see more powerful quotes and talking points from DC’s middle school youth during the BIPOC Solidarity Talk, click here.

Photo courtesy of Bang Co, DC Programs Manager

On February 24th, AALEAD closed out its Black History Month Celebration with a day at the National Museum of African American History & Culture. Students were able to explore each exhibit in the museum, some boasting that it was their favorite field trip with AALEAD yet! We were joined by both middle and high school youth for the afternoon and finished with a reflection on Black Brilliance Month. Here, DC students were able to learn about and remember the historical feats of Black people and celebrate their wins – as trailblazers, abolitionists, survivors, athletes, entertainers, fashion icons, thought leaders, and human beings.

Photo courtesy of Diana Tran, DC Middle School Program Coordinator

We are so proud of all of our youth from DC, Maryland, and Virginia and look forward to the future that they will build for themselves, their communities, and the world. Thank you to all of our staff, youth, and community partners who celebrated Black Brilliance Month with us, both in February and in our everyday lives.

For a list of resources to explore in celebration of Black Brilliance Month curated by AALEAD staff, click here.

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