I grew up in a city called Bloomington-Normal, in the cornfields of Central Illinois. To say the conservative city lacked diversity is an understatement. I was oftentimes one of a handful of black children in my primary school classes, and usually the lone African. When it came to teachers calling out my last name during attendance --Batambuze--it was butchered worse than names in Key and Peele’s skit, Substitute Teacher.
There was always a blank stare on people's faces when I mentioned that my family was from Uganda. “Where’s that? Oh, you mean Ghana?” Let's just say the one week spent during black history month watching “Roots,” wasn't a comprehensive view of African culture.
It amazed me how the curriculum only portrayed Africans as slaves, and forgot to highlight my grandparents and ancestors who were kings, queens, lawyers, politicians, entrepreneurs, doctors, and more.
It’s important for people young and old to continually educate themselves about the world. As humans, we are all connected, and can learn so much from each other’s cultures and lifestyles
Culture is woven into the food we eat, music we hear, art we create, stories we tell, and people we watch -KampInd
Expanding one's cultural awareness is easy, fun, and above all can provide you with quality time with your kids.
Here are four easy ways to make this happen:
- Plan a family trip to a museum- Museums are excellent places to explore the rich history of other cultures. Museums can be found in most major cities, and these special places are great educational opportunities for both parent and child alike. While history/culture will appear in the curriculum of most schools, attending a museum allows you to discuss topics that you personally feel are important.
- Read children's books that promote culture- Cultural children's books aren't the easiest to find, however there's a movement to make these books more accessible to all children. One good thing about these books is that they promote cultures in an easily digestible way for children. Callaloo is a children's media brand based out of Washington D.C. that's using creative programming to explore culture in fun formats. We've also recently came across Culture chest, which is a book subscription service delivering books on various cultures of the world.
- Attend festivals/events that celebrate other cultures- Children are naturally inquisitive beings, and exposing them to festivals/events of different cultures really allows their minds to wander. These festival/events will likely contain foods, activities, and music, which will educate them through multiple senses.
- Introduce a map or globe - I love this because it's so simple, relatively cheap, and so effective. Our 2 ½ year-old daughter has really bought into this. Pointing out places you've traveled to or want to visit opens up conversations of different countries and lands. Follow up conversations about life and cultures in these different lands becomes much easier using a map as a reference point.
As you can see from the list above, it can be fun and educational for the entire family to engage in cultural outings. Race is a major talking point at the moment, and increased cultural awareness will hopefully allow us all to live together in the world peacefully.
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” -Martin Luther King Jr
Have you found a good way to teach your kids about culture? We’d love to hear how.
Jonah Batambuze is an artist, connector, and globetrotter. A first-generation Ugandan, born in the U.S., Batambuze currently resides outside London, England with his wife and two young children. You can find Batambuze blogging, creating content, developing partnerships and managing social media all in the name of KampInd.