Dept. of Education celebrates Black History Month

Publish Date

Working together to create and learn from an exhibit featuring dozens of books, colorful African cloths, art, films, speakers, games and balloons is how Minnesota Dept. of Education (MDE) employees are celebrating Black History Month.

Black History Month exhibit at Dept of Education

Photo at right: Black History Month exhibit at the Dept. of Education

“There’s so much color in the exhibit. People wonder ‘What’s going on?’ They get involved in ancient Egypt, they pick up the books and touch the African cloth. It’s a personal journey for each person,” said Local 1002’s Elizabeth Stephens, one of the exhibit organizers.

Black History Month organized by MAPE and AFSCME members


Photo at left:MDE Black History Month exhibit organizers (L-R) Nawal Thabit, Tammy Funk, Maurice Wilson, Carisa Ricci, Elizabeth Stephens and Alex Migambi (Not pictured: Jackie Blagsvedt)

She said the planning committee “all came together and put a call out to staff asking for artifacts. We received items of all different African nationalities,” Stephens said.

Region 10 Chief Steward Alex Migambi pointed out that many of the books on display are on education equity and improving outcomes for students of color here in Minnesota. “The focus is also on how the civil rights movement and Black History Month intersect for educational outcomes. MAPE members of color are directly contributing to outcomes for students of color,” he said.

Commissioner Mary Cathryn Ricker visits MDE Black History Month exhibit

Photo at right: MDE Commissioner Mary Cathryn Ricker visited the Black History Month exhibit several times/Photo by Elizabeth Stephens 

“All of our students’ identities and backgrounds are important and deserve to be acknowledged and celebrated. I am thankful to members of our team who brought in artifacts and shared mementos to help broaden our overall knowledge of the contributions and histories of African Americans. I really enjoyed the opportunity to walk through the display, read from some of the books shared, and visit with colleagues every time I stopped by. What a wonderful way to learn together and recognize each other,” MDE Commissioner Mary Cathryn Ricker.

Dancer ankle bracelet

Photo at left: One of the oldest pieces in the exhibit is a 50-year-old metal bead-filled dancer's ankle bracelet

Dept. of Education exhibit organizers planned a number of activities throughout the month including a raffle, speakers, Black History Month trivia and films. Films will be shown at MDE on Feb. 27 and 28.

Organizers partnered with Barnes and Noble and the bookseller has a table where employees can get a special book list for African American history and authors and employees may also sign up for a 20 percent educator discount card. The partnership was so successful that plans are underway to partner again on the upcoming Somali celebration of Ramadan and MDE’s book clubs.

Barnes and Noble table at exhibit

Photo at right: Barnes and Noble is an exhibit partner and plans are underway for other joint activities

“I was surprised by the reception the Black History Month exhibit received. We’ve never done anything like this before. It just opened up conversations and new friendships developed. People have said we need to do more things like this,” Stephens added.

MDE Black History Month table exhibit

Photo at left: Exhibit artifacts 

MNIT and the Council for Minnesotans of African Heritage also have special articles, programs and events on their web pages in honor of Black History Month. 

MNIT is celebrating Black History Month by honoring African American figures in technology,

The Council for Minnesotans of African Heritage has also planned several events this month which are listed on the Council’s website at