How Kerry Washington has been teaching her children about Black history during the coronavirus pandemic

By Zach Harper

Parents have had a whole host of pressures on them since the coronavirus was declared a pandemic in March – and that also includes celebrities. Kerry Washington is one of many stars who have found themselves in the role of teacher since going into lockdown more than six months ago.

When she appeared on The Ellen DeGeneres Show on Sept. 22, the host couldn't help but notice the colourful art behind her and asked about it. Kerry shared that her "whole house has become a classroom," and Ellen asked the Emmy Award winner what she'd been focusing on with her children Isabelle, 6, and nearly one-year-old Caleb. She shares them with husband Nnamdi Asomugha.

"They both do online work with their classes, but I've also been really trying to use this time to teach them things that may not be on the curriculum," the 43-year-old shared. That included teaching them about the planets and the continents.

"But really with a focus on Africa," Kerry continued. "So I was walking them through lots of different African cultures. The Nubians, the Maasai warriors, Egyptian culture and just like scouring the internet for projects I could do with them and children's books about those cultures to really immerse them."

Kerry said she'd noticed that at school, Black history tends to start with slavery, Civil Rights, the Jim Crow era and "all the things that Black people were told we couldn't do."

"So I thought it was really important to kind of immerse them in the rich culture of who Black people are and were even before the Martin Luther Kings and the great, great Civil Rights leaders," she continued.

Stephen "tWitch" Boss, who is now co-executive producer of the show with Ellen, then asked Kerry how she's been speaking to her children about racial injustice and police brutality, since the two of them have kids of similar ages.

Kerry said she's always mindful that every child is different and there's no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to that topic.

"Such a big part of it is knowing who your kid is and as you're having the conversation, like watching and listening for cues to be present for this stuff, because I think a lot of us remember the moment in our own childhoods when we were first confronted with negative views about race – with racism, with institutionalized racism," she said.

Using one's empathy is key here, she continued, because it's important for her children to understand she's there for them. She used the example of wearing her T-shirt that says "Arrest the cops who killed Breonna Taylor" to illustrate this.

"If I'm going to wear that, which I do proudly, I have to be ready to have that conversation in my house and answer those questions."

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The Emmys. It was an incredible night, a true true joy to celebrate the work of our community. Thank you @televisionacad for the tremendous honor for my work in @mrsam_fxonhulu I am beyond grateful. And it was a real privilege to model the spirit of my character, Shirley Chisholm, and try and hold space for someone who cannot speak for herself, Breonna Taylor. Her life mattered. We must continue to #sayhername. For too long, we have waited for her death to be given the full justice it deserves. I hope we won’t have to wait much longer. Thank you to the incredible artists who came together, united in their crafts, to help bring this vision to life. Now, let’s go change the world. #emmys : @creativedestructionfilm

A post shared by Uzo Aduba (@uzoaduba) on

Kerry also praised Uzo Aduba (of Orange is the New Black fame, above) and Regina King, who both won Emmy Awards on Sept. 20 and wore Breonna Taylor shirts during the broadcast.

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