This month is always hard on Monica. She finds it personally difficult to have to explain the institution of slavery to five year olds so very far removed from it, and difficult to relive America's racist history every year.
She always begins with Africa and these African American children's connection to that continent. She emphasizes the beauty of that land and the normalcy of life for African children of that day. Then the capture, middle passage, selling, and life as an American slave. She emphasizes the children and families. She does not soft peddle but is careful that the information is age appropriate. Monica always intersperses where possible inspirational slave facts and culture with the harsh realities. She introduces games, books, art, songs and reads Brer Rabbit stories.
Monica does an excellent job moving through the civil war, Abe Lincoln, Jim Crow, the civil rights era into the present. In a world where kids are so insensitive to so much, in a society where watching someone be humiliated is funny, and games are won by being the most violent, she has tough competition. She has to make sure they know slavery was real. Her goal is for the kids to feel not just sympathy but empathy, to feel compassion, to make the connection, to be inspired by their survival and that they can overcome.
Her children get it. They understand what came before them and that's important. Hopefully other teachers will build on the foundation she puts down.