Jalen and Keyonna Seawright of Michigan have made it their priority to teach their two young girls, Karington, 3, and Kaidence, 2, about Black history.
“The opportunities that they have today is from other women who paved the way,” Jalen Seawright told TODAY Parents. “It’s important that as little young Black women that they grow up with an understanding that the reason why they have the freedoms and abilities to choose what they do is because so many other Black women of the past paved the way. I want them to engage with their history to understand.”
Seawright explained that growing up, the kid’s program at his church hosted a Black History Month celebration every February.
“I grew up going to a small, traditional Black church,” he said, adding that he wanted the same for his growing daughters. “The kids would dress up as one of our favorite African Americans in history and explain who it was.”
While the Seawrights hoped to participate in a similar celebration with their daughters, COVID prevented them from doing anything with their community.
“We had to get creative and do it on their own,” Seawright said.
And that's exactly what the family has done. Karington and Kaidence have donned everything from red headbands and bright yellow pea coats to look like inaugural poet Amanda Gorman, to bright orange spacesuits celebrating Dr. Mae C. Jemison, the first Black woman to be admitted into NASA’s astronaut training program and travel into space.
The dad of two shared that before he and his wife dress the girls up, they do a craft and share a story.
“They’re going to be Ruby Bridges next week, so today we watched the Ruby Bridges movie and did a craft where they drew a school girl,” he explained, adding that upcoming trailblazers include Claressa Shields and Shirley Chisholm. “We always want them to know and engage with the story in a creative way first.”
On February 4, 2021, the girls visited the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan dressed as Rosa Parks to honor the late civil rights activist’s birthday. Donning brown coats and glasses, the girls got to see the bus Parks was arrested on for refusing to give up her seat to a white man on December 1, 1955.
"Happy 108th Birthday Rosa Parks!" Seawright captioned a photo of the girls in their outfits on Instagram.
After the visit, Seawright posted a video of his daughters dressed as Rosa Parks juxtaposed next to Amanda Gorman set to the tune of Curtis Mayfield’s “Move On Up” in an endearing nod to the viral “How It Started vs. How It’s Going” challenge.
Seawright expressed the importance of engaging children in history now more than ever.
“In this season right now where there’s a ton of division, it’s always good to engage with stories of our past and cultures that are different,” he said. “We’re just trying to make our girls more aware of the past so they don’t repeat it in the future.”
More than anything, the Michigan dad hopes his girls grow up to be grateful and confident.
“I really hope that they realize that they have so much available to them as they grow up and they can be anything they want to do,” Seawright said. “And the reason they can isn’t because they’re so smart and intelligent, but [also] because there are people that sacrificed for their opportunity.”