Watch a video of the full performance here.
Why Representation Matters
Each February, Catholic Charities’ Northside Child Development Center (NCDC) students host a Black History celebration, featuring performances of spoken word, gymnastics, song and dance. This year, talking about why representation matters was a priority for teachers—and students.
As they rehearsed their performances, each classroom also collaborated to fill the NCDC hallways with artwork. These art pieces feature larger-than-life collages of paper faces that represent students and staff. While the creative process included conversation about how to cut pieces of paper and what type of adhesive works best, teachers also made sure to talk to their students about individuality, the importance of self-confidence, and why representation is so important.
Vocalizing & Appreciating Differences
No two people are the same, but what does it mean to talk about differences? Desiree, a teacher at NCDC says, “I think it’s a moment to show pride, and a chance to exhibit our individuality and talk about what it means.”
For that reason, Desiree makes a point to compliment and encourage choices that students make about their appearances—whether that means wearing new box braids or coming to school in a cute outfit. “It’s important to recognize differences and tell kids that they are always accepted and special—it means being able to be confident with who you are.”
“I know I can—be what I want to be—If I work hard at it—I’ll be where I want to be.”
These words were sung by students and staff members during a segment of this year’s NCDC Black History celebration. Students wore outfits onstage representing different careers—from a spacesuit, to scrubs, to high heels with a blazer. That affirmation is a reminder of why representation is so important, and reinforces the idea that students can succeed at whatever they choose to pursue.
Carl, one of the teachers that helped design the art project at NCDC, says, “I try to teach these kids to be proud of themselves. If you don’t have confidence, you’re not going to get far—you’ve got to believe in yourself.” When asked about the best ways to build up students’ confidence, Carl points to self-expression and leading by example.
Seeing Future Possibilities
Providing a good example for students means more than teaching work ethic and manners. It means consistently building self-esteem through seeing themselves represented in the community, in media, or even just through artwork in the hallways. Desiree recalled, “one of the little girls said, ‘this is me’, then pointed to the collage I did and said, ‘this is my mom’, and pointed to the one that Carl did and said, ‘and that’s my auntie’. That’s what it’s all about.”
Catholic Charities CEO Michael Goar was also in attendance this year, and NCDC Teacher Patricia commented on what having a Black CEO means to her: “I like seeing someone like me that knows and understands the community in which he works in. It’s also good for the children here at NCDC to see a person of color as a leader.”
The topic of Black History doesn’t begin and end with representation, and as Desiree says, “having just one month isn’t enough, we are dealing with these things every day.” Racial justice work is needed year-round, so join us as we continue having these conversations throughout the year. Black History is American History!
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