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Fostering Creativity in Black Children

So when I envisioned myself having kids, I had all of these ideas around how I wanted to behave and what they would grow up to be. Now that I have these little humans, that of course I call "the Glittergang." I realize that while I would love for them to fulfill my dreams, their lives would mean more to them if they fulfill their own dreams.

I just knew when my oldest was born she was destined to be a doctor. She was reading fluently before she turned three and her ability to problem solve was impeccable. When I asked her what she wanted to be when she grows up she said proudly "a hair stylist." I didn't initially know how to respond to that, but then I thought about how it felt to not be encouraged to do what I had always dreamed of doing. I grew up wanting to be a Broadway singer, dancer, and actor. I sang from the time I woke up until the time I closed my eyes every night. I was even known to sing in my sleep. I grew up with parents that fostered creativity, but they also reminded us to make life decisions that are sensible and could pay our bills. The hard thing about that is the level of contradiction that it embodies. On the one hand you're being told to do what you love, but the other point of emphasis is to be able to provide for yourself and eventually your family. What a dilemma to have to choose between loving what you do and making sure you can eat. What I didn't know at that time is that you can love you what you do and make a living.

But honestly this isn't about me. This is about the importance of fostering creativity in our (our meaning little Black boys and girls) kids. When they express something that they want to do we have to find a way to expose it to them and make sure they understand the kind of life they can build as a result of it. It is important for them to be able to make that choice, rather than having the choice be made for them.

Zahra, my oldest wants to be a hairstylist. Once I saw that she was serious, I also allowed her to wash and style her younger sisters' hair. After she successfully completed those tasks (and trust me it's a task), I started growing out my hair so she could learn how to braid short 4C hair. From there, I created a Youtube channel "ZahraSlayedIt" for her to document her journey. I don't know where it will lead, but I do know that I want her to grow up and be able to say I supported her every step of the way. The same goes for my middle child, Kai. She has expressed a desire to be a makeup artist since she was around six years old. I can remember how much I loved playing in makeup when I was little. In an effort to foster her creativity, I let Kai do my makeup and she did a pretty good job for a first timer.

I say all of this simply to say...I know you may already have a vision for your children, but let them have some input on the life that they will ultimately be living. After all, you don't want them spending ALL of their money in therapy when they grow up attempting to overcome their childhood trauma! I'm just saying! Black people are naturally creative beings. We can find a way to innovate pretty much anything. However, we have this nasty habit of wanting to put a cap on the creativity of our children. Instead of encouraging them to think outside of the box, we sometimes find innovative ways to make the box even smaller. This can't be our truth. The next generation of leaders will need to be creative and innovative thinkers. Our children must be raised to think like leaders and solve problems that we could never even fathom. They can't do that successfully if we don't create the space for it to happen organically.

Many may disagree with me, but I believe that our children are our gifts and not our property. We do not OWN them, but instead we are charged with the care and rearing. We are supposed to nurture, love, and protect them. That's it!

Here are 3 tips to help foster creativity in your children:

  1. Listen to what your children express as interests and give them more opportunities to explore them.

  2. Find mentors who are successful in the area of creativity that your child is interested and allow them to ask questions, shadow, and learn.

  3. Learn how to give a slow yes versus a quick no. This is important because sometimes as parents, we say no before we hear a child's request. This essentially shuts them down before they even have a chance to express themselves.

The goal is to raise happy, healthy, ad self-sufficient children. That can't happen if we stifle their creativity.

Check out the videos of Kai doing my makeup and Zahra braiding.

Laila is a makeup artist too!

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