We Are Living Black History Month

By: Simone Newsome

Oftentimes when we hear about Black History Month, the first images that pop into our minds are of Martin Luther King Jr., Malcom X, or Barack Obama. While these figures of great change and influence are important to honor and remember during Black History Month, and every month, it is important to honor the Black people making history in big and small ways every day. They may be the first Black director of an organization, one of the few or only person of color in their graduate program, or any other first that could lead to change. Representation like this is key in making sure that future generations of children believe that it is possible to reach those same achievements. A statement I hear almost weekly when interviewing potential Littles enrolling into the Big Brothers Big Sisters program is, “I want a Big who looks like me.” More than half of the youth Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Chicago serves are youth of color, while many of our volunteers are not.

In an effort to be able to meet this request more often, BBBSMC’s Diversity Council has hosted four Bigs of Color Happy Hour events to recruit more volunteers of color. During these events current Bigs are also encouraged to share their stories about the impact they’ve seen in mentoring a child from a similar background. Attendees have shared stories detailing their own struggles in searching for a mentor that they could relate to, and have used that as inspiration for their own participation in BBBSMC programming. During the Bigs of Color Happy Hour that took place in September 2020, we encouraged Bigs to write a letter to their Little to let them know why they wanted to participate and how they have been impacted by their mentee during their time together. Ciana, a Big Sister in one of our Community Based programs noted, “Being your Big Sister means more than being a guiding light, ear to listen to or overall role model. It means I can walk with you through the unique journey that is ours, as young Black women. It means I have the opportunity to educate you in ways other Bigs who may not share our same racial or cultural lens are able to.”

Some of these potential Bigs may be the history makers that help a Little find their passion, spark their creativity, encourage them to achieve in school, or begin believing in themselves. Could that person be you? As we near the end of Black History Month, will you think about how you can be a part of the history of one child's life? By signing up to be a Big in one of our Community Based or Site Based programs, not only are you helping a child through mentorship, but you are also tapping into that living Black history and helping the next change maker on their path towards success. Helping a child reach their full potential may not put you in the history books, but it will be remembered by you and your mentee for a lifetime. Will you start that journey today?