Children celebrating Black History Month
Feb 24, 2022 - Elmhurst YMCA

Youth reflect on Black history and imagine an antiracist future

When Carter G. Woodson laid the foundation for Black History Month at the Wabash Avenue YMCA in 1915, he set out to create an enduring precedent: that of celebrating Black leaders, educating our communities, and inspiring future generations to see bright possibilities within themselves.

Over a century later, the YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago is proud to continue Woodson’s legacy by ensuring young learners develop cross-cultural literacy and antiracist frameworks at every stage of their development.

This Black History Month, youth program participants across our Association honored Black luminaries and imagined a more equitable future:

There was no shortage of meaningful Black History Month activities at the South Side YMCA: From testing their knowledge in a Jeopardy-style Black History quiz competition to a live performance of Useni Eugene Perkins’ poem “Hey Black Child,” youth celebrated Black voices and contributions in every field of human endeavor. 

The South Side Y even built a Black History Story Booth for kids to read books written by African-American authors to each other! On top of strengthening core language arts skills, many of the center’s young learners were able to see themselves in the rich, diverse narratives of Black storytellers.

Meanwhile, at Pierce Elementary’s Out of School Time (OST) program, students participated in a discussion about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s impact on our nation. After learning about Dr. King’s life and work, youth outlined their handprints and wrote down dreams they have about positively impacting the world around them.

Sawyer Elementary OST students read articles about Black leaders including Ruby Bridges, President Barack Obama, Rosa Parks, and Jackie Robinson and reflected on their longstanding contributions to our history. Exercising their creativity, Sawyer Elementary’s OST participants also created posters honoring Black History Month, drawing inspiration from civil rights movement protest signs and art.

By thoughtfully incorporating Black History Month’s lessons—of cultural resilience, honoring the past, and imagining a better world—we empower tomorrow’s leaders to make strides toward an antiracist future.