KALAMAZOO, Mich. — Each year we celebrate the history and legacy of known African-American activists and trailblazers during the month of February.
However, there’s plenty of rich history left untold. Plus, the Black experience in America goes beyond one era and is relevant 365 days a year, not just 28.
Students are demanding they be taught more of this history.
Like many aspects of the Black experience and culture, African-American history has been swept under the rug or in some cases watered down.
Now, school districts across the country are committing to an accurate depiction on the past, present and future of Black America including the Kalamazoo Public Schools.
Thanks to student-lead efforts, the district will offer a course at Kalamazoo Central, Loy Norrix and Phoenix high schools.
“My student leaders were like umm, why do other schools have this type of class or Black history studies class and we don’t. Our students shouldn’t have to wait until they are at phoenix to learn this,” Phoenix High School Principal Mark Hill said.
He presented a proposal to the school board to have an African-American studies class.
“I look at Black history as to be the rest of the history. The rest of the history that has been removed from history. I think it’s important for the whole history of America,” Hill said, “even of Black people and how we got here.”
There is no national curriculum or set of standards for teaching Black history in America.
Hill said the A class will consist of students learning about cultural roots like ancient Africa and slavery in the United States. Part B students will learn about resistance movements as well as the current state of African Americans.
Hill said it time to tell the full story of this country’s history and the best way to engage students is through hands-on learning like going to museums and other places they’ve only read about in books.
“It’s up to us as the adult to understand that it’s our responsibility to fill in the gaps where the books and curriculum evades,” Hill said.
You cannot talk about American history without talking about Black history.
Hill said the class, which is an elective, will be a safe space for all students.
“I think the earlier we start the better. So, by the time students get to high school that we don’t have to teach them. We have to teach our students that’s its safe and OK to have conversations about race,” Hill said.
Hill promises the class will be a safe space for students, just like any school should be.
The classes will be offered next semester.