The Bears proudly honor and recognize Black History throughout the year and are continuing in February to celebrate the progress, richness and diversity of Black achievements and experiences. The Bears are committed to using this month to commemorate the contributions of Black people to U.S. history and to celebrate the unique history, culture and heritage of Black Americans.
Bears general manager Ryan Poles and assistant general manager Ian Cunningham visited The DuSable Black History Museum and Education Center in Chicago Jan. 24 to tour the facility's exhibits and learn about different time periods in Black history.
Poles and Cunningham brought their young children on the visit and were joined by other members of the Bears front office as well as Bears alumni Israel Idonije and Matt Forte, who took his parents on the tour.
The Bears' relationship with DuSable started in 2020 when Bears Care helped the museum celebrate Juneteenth with a $19,000 grant. Bears Care renewed the grant for Juneteenth in 2021 for the museum's official re-opening following the pandemic.
"We are thrilled by the way our relationship with the Chicago Bears organization has grown over the past several years," DuSable President & CEO Perri Irmer said. "Being our hometown team and having so many prominent African American players, alums and front office staff is extremely important, and we are very proud of their leadership in that area. We had a great time during our visit last week with Ryan, Ian, Izzy and Matt. We're really happy that Ryan and Ian brought their children, and that Matt brought his parents because what we teach at The DuSable really is through a multi-generational approach. The importance of educating all people of all ages about Black history is paramount to our mission."
While the tour was an informative experience for Poles and Cunningham, sharing the experience with their children gave the pair an opportunity to further educate their kids ahead of Black History Month.
"It's super important," Cunningham said. "Anytime you get a chance to show them the history of our history, it matters, especially with them growing up and needing to understand what people before them had to go through to get these opportunities. For us to be in the position we're in today, is because of the people that came before us. So anytime we get a chance to bring our families and our kids into this and have them learn about our history, we're going to take advantage of that."
The first exhibit Irmer led the group through was Equiano.Stories, which recounts the childhood of Olaudah Equiano – a historic figure in the anti-slavery movement in the late 1700s – through an Instagram Stories format. The film, which is played inside the exhibit, helps tell the origin story of Black history prior to slavery.
"I thought it was really well done in terms of starting this museum with Black history which starts with Black people that are free," Poles said. "Because a lot of times it starts in slavery, so I thought that was really well done. It really showed the starting point."
Poles, Cunningham, Idonije and Forte then toured the Freedom: Origin and Journey exhibit, which breaks down seven key segments of African American history including the height of the Transatlantic Slave Trade, the Great Migration and the Black Power Movement.
The group then learned about Black history in Chicago and Illinois, exploring exhibits about Harold Washington – the first elected African American Mayor of Chicago in 1983 – the Chicago 1919 Race Riot and the Citizen Soldiers of the Illinois Fighting 8th.
"Being able to come here and learn about the history all the way from Africa through modern day and just hearing more about the Chicago history that I didn't have an idea about," Cunningham said. "But it's been a great experience and great for family and kids to be able to see this."
Following the conclusion of the tour, Poles presented the Museum with a $50,000 grant – issued by Bears Care - to help fund its annual Juneteenth community programming and fund summer learning opportunities for youth.
"We are so pleased that the Bears have stepped up to partner with our iconic and world-class institution," Irmer said. "We are the oldest independent Black history museum in the country and a leader in art and history education. Especially today when the teaching of full and accurate history is under attack, it's great to have a hometown NFL team championing our cause."
Through its continued support and promotion of The DuSable Black History Museum, the Bears encourages fans to visit this important institution. To schedule a trip to The DuSable Black History Museum and Education Center, visit dusablemuseum.org.