Hate Out of Winston and dozens of people pushing for the local school system to adopt a mandatory African American History course, showed up at the school board meeting last week to let board members know why they feel the course is needed.
Prior to the board meeting last Tuesday, Hate Out of Winston, a local advocacy group, held a press conference to let the public and media know about their effort. Destiny Blackwell, an organizer with Hate Out of Winston, said if the rich history of African Americans isn’t taught to the next generation of young people it will be lost.
“If we aren’t supporting and we aren’t establishing an opportunity for people to learn about themselves, to learn about the history that exists, then we are actively allowing it to disappear,” she said. “We have a lot of rich history in this city, a lot of rich African American black history and it’s lost to time if we don’t preserve it.”
In 2005 Philadelphia became the first major city in the country to require an African American History course to graduate from high school. Other states including Arkansas, Florida, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, Mississippi, and Rhode Island have also passed laws requiring African American courses to be taught. Currently, Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools offers an African American History course as an elective at several high schools, but at least 17 students have to sign up for the course before it can be taught.
Ken Rasheed, an organizer with the local organizing committee, has been pushing for the mandatory course since 2016. Since the initial push three years ago, Rasheed said he had met with current and former board members and district officials several times, but it seems as if they weren’t listening. He said, “Hopefully, the school board is listening. We know for the past three years they have not been listening, but the fight continues.”
When asked if he has sat down with the current school board, which consists of five new members, Rasheed said he has had productive conversations with board chair Malashai Woodbury, but what the movement really needs is more support from the African American community.
“We don’t have enough black people supporting what we’ve been trying to do. It’s been on Facebook, it’s been on the news, so there should be enough people in this community to know what we’re doing,” continued Rasheed. “When the situation happened at Hanes Middle School with the ground contamination, white people packed this auditorium. Our people have to come out and support our children.”
During the public comment portion of the school board meeting, several parents, educators, and other supporters of the mandatory African American History course told the board why they thought the course was necessary.
“The community has asked for a mandatory African American study and never have I heard this discussed in a committee meeting that I’ve been in,” said longtime activist Al Jabaar during the meeting.
“We brought this before the previous board and we intentionally went out and beat the bushes to get you there. So today we are asking you to take a stand. It’s a shame that we have black and brown students that are in our schools that don’t have the basic knowledge of their history because teachers can choose if they want to infuse this or not,” he continued. “You are indebted to the people who voted you on this board to make sure that all children understand who they are, their history, and what they can become as a result of knowing their history.”
As customary during all school board meetings, board members were not allowed to respond during the public comment portion of the meeting. Attempts to reach board chair Malashai Woodbury following the meeting were unsuccessful.
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