“The 400-year history of African Americans is full of tragedies that have shaped the black experience in America and should be remembered as moral catastrophes. However, that is not the whole story of African-American history. African Americans have contributed to the economic, academic, social, cultural and moral well-being of this nation,” Scot Esdaile, President of the Connecticut NAACP State Conference and a member of the NAACP National Board of Directors, told Connecticut legislators 16 months ago.
His testimony was among more than 200 heard or filed on March 6, 2019, at the Connecticut General Assembly’s Education Committee, urging passage of House Bill 7082, An Act Concerning the Inclusion of Black and Latino Studies in the Public School Curriculum.
“Students of all hues would benefit from a deeper knowledge of the journeys, challenges and accomplishments of people who look like them – and those who do not,” said Andrea Comer, Executive Director of Educators for Excellence Connecticut. “The list of gifts from Black and Brown people is endless. The value of students learning about these gifts in the classroom is priceless.”
Added Hamden resident Rachel Liu-Ballard, a member of her community’s Anti-Bias Anti-Racism Group: “We can’t begin to heal and move forward as a country until we have done the profoundly important work of reckoning with our past and learning our history. People’s lives, my son’s life, literally depends on it.”
Before the legislative session concluded last spring, the law was approved unanimously by the Senate and 122-24 in the House, and was subsequently signed into law by Governor Ned Lamont on June 21, 2019. The curriculum is now being developed, in accordance with the law’s requirements.
It requires the State Board of Education to review and approve, by January 1, 2021, a Black and Latino studies year-long high school course that the State Education Resource Center (SERC) has been designated to develop. Local Boards of Education must offer the course in the 2022-23 school year, but they may do so in the 2021-22 school year. The law requires the high school course to be offered, but does not require that every student take the course.
During the school years 2022-23 to 2024-25, the State Department of Education must conduct an annual audit to ensure that the Black and Latino studies course is being offered by each Board of Education in the state.
Among those testifying at the Capitol last year were students, including those attending colleges and high schools throughout Connecticut.
Jonaya-Mone Muse, a student at the University of New Haven, “grew up in a predominately white school system where I was always one of few black students. Only time I learned about black history was during the month of February because the teachers felt obligated to teach it … Every year I learned about the same civil rights leaders, the same marches, and the same laws that were passed and denied.”
Khalil Lovejoy, a sophomore at University High School of Science and Engineering in Hartford, stressed that “Black history is not only slavery… I would love to learn about Black Wall Street, Nat Turner, Brown vs. Board of Education, and less explored topics in our history.”
Testifying on behalf of Connecticut Voices for Children, Wendy Waithe Simmons pointed out that “It is important for children to see their race and culture’s past reflected in their curriculum so that they know what it possible for themselves. I have friend whose son’s teacher told him recently that they there was not enough time to recognize Black History month in their class. It was a micro-aggression that was painful to him as well as his parents. These statues will ensure that no child will have to hear in the future that his or her cultural is not important enough to learn about in school.”
“Understanding lessons from the past, and teaching students about the strength of our diversity as a nation, is the first step towards building a stronger and healthier multicultural society in the 21st Century,” testified Steve Ginsburg, Director of the Anti-Defamation League’s Connecticut Regional Office.
Jan Hochadel, President, AFT CT, representing over 15,000 teachers and other school related personnel, said “While we work to make our workforce more diverse, our current teachers need to be encouraged to teach the history of people of color and be provided the materials necessary to do so effectively.”
“You cannot tell the American Story without telling the African American Story, it is impossible,” Esdaile added. “We have influenced every hamlet, town, city, county and State in America. We have participated in every war in which our Ancestors gave their lives to protect the Freedoms of this Country for the last 400 Years… This Act and Bill is well overdue.”
Source: Connecticut By The Numbers