Jaime Patterson | February 2019
Celebrating Achievement of Black Artists
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
The posterboard hung in my classroom my first year teaching with the quote in black block print against a white background. I first received this poster bearing the Dr. King quote when I participated in a march in NYC promoting peace. I was in 8th grade.
I had taken the train into the city with friends and we gathered with others on the steps of the New York Public Library, the Beaux-Arts branch in Manhattan. Someone had made these posters and distributed them amongst all of us who had gathered. Later, the poster hung on my wall through high school, and then traveled south to St. Mary’s College of Maryland and hung on my dorm room wall for four years before transitioning to my classroom.
I knew I liked the quote. As an English major and then a language arts teacher, I had always had a strong affinity for quotes, jotting them in notebooks or creating doodles in my sketchbooks centered around words that had a special meaning for me. The Dr. King quote was definitely one of my favorites and it had certainly accompanied me through most of my adult life. It had special meaning during the days towards the conclusion of January all the way through February because of Dr. King’s birthday and the specific Black heritage lessons we taught all through the following month.
In fact, I often saw this quote touted out by fellow teachers around this time of the year, posted on facebook statuses or scrawled across bulletin boards. But I’m not sure I ever fully understood the context of the quote, the life that Dr. King lived, or how he was killed by a white American and how so many white Americans (including Ronald Reagan) were critical of his cause, even after his murder. In fact, the quotes were so often used that they ceased to have any authenticity.
A Conscious Effort
So, this year I am making a conscious effort to move beyond the Dr. King quotes posted during Black History Month into analyzing the way I am living my life in the day-to-day. I’m also working to avoid posting Dr. King quotes without doing the work to stand behind them.
In an effort to make one tiny change in the right direction, I’ve compiled a reference listing free resources for teaching lessons about specific artists of color. It is my hope that you are able to pull from these resources not just in the coming month, but throughout the entire year ahead. Some of the resources listed below are full lesson plans, some are articles or exhibitions that are free to access online, but all can be implemented in an arts integration classroom. I also invite you to add to this list in the comments section. This resource barely scratches the surface.
Jay Z’s Fife and Drum (featuring Jay Z)
This lesson can be used with any age group and combines Jay Z’s song Empire State of mind with Drum Corps techniques while teaching students about the Civil War.
The Blues and Langston Hughes (featuring Langston Hughes)
The Smithsonian offers this lesson four ways, simply choose your grade level off the menu and have fun teaching students about the structure of the Blues stanza, both in music and in the poems of Langston Hughes!
Musical Harlem: How jazz music is reflective of the Harlem Renaissance
In this lesson students will be listening to audio recordings and identifying different types of music and more specifically, the musical elements of jazz. This lesson also includes dancing and visual art so it’s great for all types of learners.
Follow the Drinking Gourd Song
Students learn about the songs of slavery through this lesson which analyzes a poem called The Drinking gourd. Teach about aural tradition and how songs and stories were passed down through generations.
Jazz and Math: Improvisational Permutations
In this lesson by Teacher Vision, students are working to explore rhythmic connections. Students will derive a mathematical relationship that will allow them to calculate the actual number of possible musical permutations given the limited set of options to choose from
Smithsonian Jazz Mixer
Make sure you have flash player downloaded on your computer before trying out this resource from the Smithsonian Folkways programming.
The History of Hip-Hop
Did you know NPR compiled a timeline of the history of Hip Hop? Each point on the timeline includes photographs as well as audio recordings and it makes for a great interactive activity or research point for a larger project!
The Birth of Rock
While there is lots of information available about the African American role in jazz and hip hop, its less common to hear about the Black folks who were “instrumental” (sorry) in the development of rock. Teach Rock certainly does a great job at highlighting the Black Americans who helped to establish the “Rock and Roll” era of music!