BY ADRIENNE ADAMS
Americans recognize February as a month of remembrance to honor African American trailblazers. Black History Month was instituted many years ago, and yet there is still a struggle to make black history a tangible part of the American history curriculum in this nation’s public schools.
Black history is integral in understanding the complexity of America’s history, and yet it is does not hold a prominent place in our education system. Even at some of the best schools, black history is often minimized to include a basic overview of slavery and the Civil Rights Movement. The notable black figures who children learn about are Harriet Tubman and Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
There is no room for learning about the valuable contributions of W.E.B. Dubois, Charles Richard Drew, Langston Hughes or the Harlem Renaissance. These names should be on the lips of every black elementary student as there is more to African Americans than the negative stories and stereotypes seen on television shows, in movies and on the news.
People of African descent have made significant contributions to the United States. We are a people whose ancestors built this country without wages or benefits, but get an annual mention one month out of the calendar year to collectively tell our stories, explain our values, hail our heroes and attempt to weave our truth into the fabric of a resistant educational curriculum and social narrative.
The role black history has played in America is too monumental to be watered down. While I would imagine that nearly every student knows that Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on the bus, it is important that we teach year-round about the significant contributions and sacrifices made by countless African American people. It is important to engage students in activities that get them to think broadly and critically about the black experience in all of its complexity.
Black History Month should challenge us to engage ourselves in the wealth of black culture. This year, it is my hope that Black History Month opens the conversation about doing more to honor black history. We should all recognize the sacrifices African Americans have made to make this a better America. I truly wish that other races see Black History Month as an opportunity to challenge themselves by encouraging their children to immerse themselves in cultural centers and read books by black authors to grasp the history beyond slavery.
It is important that all students, regardless of culture, have a broader knowledge of history and the contributions of people of various backgrounds that have brought us to where we are in society today. We must give students a well-rounded education on all history. Black history is for everyone, no matter what color you are.
Adrienne Adams is the councilwoman for Queens’ 28th District, which covers Jamaica, Rochdale Village, South Ozone Park and Richmond Hill.