A commitment to inclusion, diversity, and equality has always been a part of our DNA as Girl Scouts. In 1954, Martin Luther King, Jr. called Girl Scouts “a force of desegregation.” My name is Badhaftu and I work with the Girl Scouts ConnectZ program in the community partnership department here at River Valleys and one of the many hats I wear is, troop leader! This February, I’d like to share some ways you can take some time with your troop to honor and remember the phenomenal black men and women we learned about in our history books and how they influenced and impacted our country.
The first step is to find out what your girls already know and meeting them where they are. If you have younger Girl Scouts, they may have only briefly covered the subject in school, so you’ll want to do more introductory activities. Older girls might already have historical and current context from which to explore these topics. Regardless of age, it’s important to make sure they understand that black history is American history.
Another thing to keep in mind is that if you have black girls in your troops, to not assume they have more or less knowledge than other girls or expect them to speak on anyone’s behalf other than their own. As a black student myself, I remember too many times being in a classroom and students staring at me when topics perceived as “black” came up and several teachers asked for my opinion on certain topics (that I had no experience with).
Finally, be sure to find a balance in exploring both positive things as well as difficult subjects, such as slavery, when meeting with your troop. You don’t want it to be all about struggle, but you also don’t want to whitewash history and paint it all rosy. It’s important to be able to talk about difficult parts of our history so we can have a better future.
Below are some fun and engaging activities you can try with your troop to celebrate Black History Month:
- Research black women who were Girl Scouts and do a presentation to your troop about how they were go-getters, innovators, risk-takers, and leaders themselves.
- Learn about poets like Langston Hughes, Nicki Giovanni, and Maya Angelou and create your own poems.
- Host a movie night with films such as Hidden Figures (talk about original G.I.R.L.s!), Selma, The Color Purple, or 13th (with parental discretion, of course) and have a discussion afterward.
- Learn about the Harlem Renaissance and create your own Night at the Apollo where girls can sing, dance, read, or act out works from artists of that time or their own.
- Go to a museum with exhibits on black artists and create a scavenger hunt for the girls to complete.
- Learn about local organizations like the NAACP or Appetite For Change and consider donating time or leftover troop funds to make a difference in your community.
Remember, this is Girl Scouts, not school, so you have some room to let girls take the lead in what they want to learn and how they want to explore these topics. Feel free to comment and share some Black History Month activities you and your troop have done that girls have enjoyed!
Badhaftu Kadir – Badhaftu is a Community Partnerships Specialist at River Valleys, where she develops relationships with the community and serves girls with the Girl Scouts ConnectZ program. Her background is in youth development, programming, and event planning. She has a BA in Political Science with a focus on Education and Domestic Policy and has worked in non-profits, schools, and housing complexes with youth of all ages. Badhaftu loves attending music festivals, traveling with friends, and hanging out with her 9-year-old sister!