Vamos a Leer is certainly not the only blog celebrating Black History Month from the Latin American perspective, despite the fact that English-language online content for Black History Month is overwhelmingly dominated by North American and African focused-material. That being said, there is a fantastic online resource for celebrating Black History Month in Latin America in the classroom on the Black Entertainment Network (BET) blog. I am super excited to share this resource because I grew up watching the BET evolve, and its content had an undeniably central influence on youth and popular culture. Today, BET has grown to have a large international audience, and in turn their own U.S. audience has become more internationally attuned – BET’s online news source is a popular platform for ongoing news from Africa and the Caribbean. For that reason, I am thrilled to see such a central media platform for Black culture in the U.S. and beyond highlighting Black history in Latin America. Perhaps it is notable because it reflects the ever-growing importance and confluence of Afrolatino cultures across the world. Without further ado: BET’s Black History Month: Latin American Heritage.
The feature is composed of fifteen slides, each one featuring an important figure, both in historic and contemporary times. On the opening slides, we see several figures your students may already have heard of, such as Pele, the Brazilian born as Edson Arantes do Nascimiento, who is regarded by many as the best soccer player of all time. Or, Celia Cruz, the Cuban dance powerhouse widely regarded as the “Queen of Salsa”. But of the 15 figures chosen, 5 are contemporary Black female politicians. Piedad Córdoba, Colombian Senator; Michaelle Jean, Governor General in Canada; Christiane Taubira, represents French Guiana in France’s National Assembly; Susana Baca, Peruvian Cabinet Member and Grammy-award winning singer; Benedita da Silva, first Brazilian black female governor. There are two political and social reformers from Puerto Rico, the physician Dr. José Celso Barbosa, and the educator Rafael Cordero, regarded as “The Father of Public Education in Puerto Rico”. There are two writers featured on the list, the highly-acclaimed Cuban poet Nicolás Guillén and the contemporary Haitian-American novelist Edwidge Danticat, winner of a National Book Award and MacArthur Foundation “genius” grant. There are two leaders of independence movements, Toussaint Louverture of 18th century Haiti, and Antonio Maceo Grajales of 19th century Cuba.
A great activity would be for each student to choose one of these figures and learn more about them. For instance, Edwidge Danticat’s National Book Award-nominated Krik? Krak! is an amazing piece to cover, and you can even check out our Vamos a Leer teaching resource for this work, published in 2012! Or, to learn more about Benedita da Silva, Brazil’s first black female governor, you check out this biographical and short video resource on the African America Registry. I hope you and your students enjoy learning more about these amazing figures of history and of today. Each of their lives opens up a wide world of talent, passion and possibilities. Have a wonderful weekend!
Image: Taken from BET’s slideshow on Black History in Latin America