Welcome to our Kidizen family stories from the Kidizen community. As we wrap up Black History month, we wanted to learn more about what it means to this month’s featured family. We spoke with Jhalainna Castaneda, a Kidizen seller and mama of 2 boys and 1 girl.
Tell us what Black history means to you and how does it influence you as a mother?
Black History in its simplest form means celebrating and honoring the existence, significance and contribution of members of the African diaspora. While Black History is intertwined in the fabric of American History, throughout this month, we pay particular focus on Black contributions from their time of capture and enslavement from their homeland to help build the very foundations of this country, to their generational offspring throughout our American history that lead to today. Many people have varying views on whether or not Black History Month should even exist; some argue its very nature creates a sense of “separate” history, but I look at it as an intentional act of looking DEEPER into a rich history of people who have fought for the right to have their stories told and were denied the right to do so for hundreds of years!
In a world with so much distraction, disinformation and division that can be downright demoralizing, the existence of BHM helps me refocus on freedoms to be thankful for and a rich history of fighters to be proud of. Celebrating and discussing Black History Month helps me be more intentional with my own pursuit of education about the significant history of my people for my own knowledge that I then share with my children. I often find myself in the month of February actively using historical figures like MLK Jr to help my 1st and 3rd grader understand how to navigate certain social circumstances where they are frustrated with the way someone treated them at school–I always bring up the fact that leading with compassion and speaking up and using words can bring about more long-term effective change than leading with anger and violence, even if it feels warranted. Although discussing moments like the Civil Rights Movement in Black History can bring up hard topics for me to discuss with kids such as brutality and segregation, the most rewarding aspect of discussing those tragedies as a mother, are the stories of resilience and policies of change because of them. My kids understand we are from a long line of hard work, perseverance and resilience!
What makes you proud of your heritage?
It may be cliché but Black is truly Beautiful. Aside from reiterating the significance of the historical figures we celebrate who helped define the America we live in today, during BHM I love basking in our very existence as a radiant culture and what we LOOK like! For so long, being one drop of Black made you classified as untouchable, undesirable, unworthy and ugly. We know we are not a monolithic people and we rejoice in our diversity. We come in all shades and boast varying textures of hair–coiled, kinky, locs, wavy, poofs, puffs, braided, bone straight, weaved…you name it, we have it. Expressive hair has always been a part of black culture and identity and it is one aspect of our culture I feel sets us apart from all others. We have heads of hair that have their own social media accounts, blogs, YouTube tutorials and whatnot that would make America’s first self-made millionaire (and black woman hair care entrepreneur), Madame CJ Walker proud. Growing up as multi-racial Black woman (I have a black mother and Filipino father), I didn’t always have an appreciation for my extremely thick and wavy “Diana Ross” hair because it was hard to manage and I did everything I could to “water it down” per se because I resented it. I would either excessively gel it or beg my mom to straighten it, which she often refused so it mostly sat in a bun…Fast forward to today, where there is a revival of wearing natural hair and ethnocentric styles that makes me proud to share and celebrate with my kids who all boast different curl patterns atop their bronze skin, but especially my curly afro rocking 9 year old daughter, who I have proudly dubbed my “froshanista”. Gone are the days where beauty is solely measured by European standards, and an intimate way honoring Black history is accepting, owning and loving our NATURAL selves and teaching our kids to do the same.
Is there a moment in Black history that you would like to talk about?
I love Black history so much that I actually minored in it in college! I could talk about many key moments in our history that were pivotal to overall social progress, but the first moment that comes to mind that shaped me most as a mother, is the election of Barack Obama as our 44th President of the United States–a feat I didn’t know I’d live to see alongside my grandparents! I remember the first time Obama burst onto the national stage as the keynote speaker for the 2004 DNC convention and my mass communications teacher proclaiming he may very well be the first black president! I felt in my bones he could be right, but what made his election more special, was him campaigning on HOPE and winning the year my first son was born! I remember waddling around pregnant in excitement in my “This Mama Loves Obama” tees and jumping up and down for joy when he was finally inaugurated, with my brand new baby boy who would be the part of the first generation of babies who came into the world knowing he too could be President someday–that the ceiling would never be too high to reach and having a black president that looked like him and a first family that looked like his was just a “normal” thing!!
Of course having Kamala in the office now as VP is equally inspiring for me and my daughter, as it continues a legacy of social progress and breaking glass ceilings that used to separate us in the past. While there is unquestionably more work to do in terms of representation and interest in politics, it has been nothing short of an honor to witness both historical elections in my lifetime and I don’t take that for granted a single bit.
Do you have any favorite Black-owned social media accounts or people that you love?
I am in a severe minority when I say this but I quit social media in 2019! Some accounts I liked to follow when I was active or catch glimpses of every now and again:
@taliahwaajidbrand (haircare products I use for our hair)
What are some ways to celebrate Black History month?
I encourage all people in my life to actively pursue Black history on a daily basis–not just during the month of February! There is a wealth of knowledge to be learned online through simple hashtags and search buttons on social media and plenty of Netflix and Amazon Prime specials to fill the entire month of February and then some. Celebrating Black History doesn’t necessarily mean going down the dark roads of Slavery or Civil Rights either. It could also mean jamming to your favorite Black artists like Beyonce, Darius Rucker, or Michael Jackson who’ve broken barriers and shattered album records. It could mean supporting Black content and businesses–even big box stores like Target and Walmart have stepped up their corporate social responsibility and begun to regularly promote Black owned brands and creators within their stores and websites and giving proceeds of sales back to the communities they serve. Simply type in “black owned products” into Target and Walmart sites and you will be amazed at how many things you could buy!
One other important way to celebrate Black History is exercising the right to vote! For so long, many blacks were refused a say in societal decision-making and policy, so I make sure I always honor my ancestors and their fight for equality by using my ballot to help produce change and continue the progress they dedicated their lifetime working for!
Thank you to Jhalainna for sharing a bit about herself and her family with us. You can find Jhalainna on Kidizen at Cocoabeankids.