February is African-American History Month and libraries all over the country are celebrating this month with a variety of programs and displays. For teens, music and art are tools that will bring them together regardless of their race, religion, sex, and abilities so let’s use these art forms to celebrate this important event in a creative and innovative way. Here are two ideas that will appeal to teens and help them become part of a bigger conversation when it comes to equality and freedom.
With the return of the record player and vinyl, teens can meet up and listen to a variety of Blues artists while learning the history of the Blues. Select a few artists and throw together a PowerPoint, or Prezi presentation, to provide a little background information about the origin of the Blues and how this genre provided momentum for the Civil Rights Movement. Once you have selected artists, play tracks that will interest teens and throw up the lyrics, or provide handouts, so they can read them while they listen. Once they have finished listening to the tracks, ask questions about the songs and see what kind of responses teens come up with. Here are a few examples from youTube that will definitely illicit interesting conversation:
- A Change is Gonna Come by Sam Cooke
- Lift Every Voice and Sing by Aretha Franklin
- Strange Fruit by Billie Holiday
- We Shall Overcome by Mahalia Jackson
- Trouble So Hard by Vera Hall
- Times They Are A Changin’ by Bob Dylan
Just like the traditional book club, we can form the conversation in a similar fashion where the lyrics become the story. Have teens write down their initial thoughts of the songs before discussing the meaning of the lyrics. When everyone has had a chance to write down their thoughts, ask teens to share their interpretations. Once everyone shares their findings, discuss how these ideas convey the meaning of the song. Let teens know that no one has a right or wrong answer, but do ask if this discussion has provided a better understanding of why these songs were incredible tools to help bring awareness to the Civil Rights Movement. If you have the time, or want to turn this program into series, expand upon your program by including the songs of protest of the Vietnam War and the rise of the Black Panther party to inner city violence and the birth of Hip Hop.
If your library doesn’t have access to a record player, you can easily purchase CDs and play them through a sound system. If you have the ability to purchase a record player, it will introduce teens to wonder of record players and provide them with actual evidence as to recording music tracks have evolved over the decades. You can easily purchase a record player on Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble.com, Target, and Best Buy. As for the vinyl, you can also easily purchase these online or in stores that carry vinyl. I highly recommend visiting your local record store because you may be able to find used records, which will save you money, but make the experience even more awesome.