Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Rosa Parks and the Civil Rights Movement: The surface of American black history. This is the black history knowledge required for educators to teach elementary and middle school students according to the “Common Core” made by an elite group of people in the United States. But it is not enough. To really learn about black history in one’s own life, someone would either have to learn it in college or remain curious throughout their entire lives. Learning Africana Studies is an opportunity that anyone should take advantage of when it is available.
The class I am taking at the Academy of Pacific Rim, called Birthright Birmingham, is an opportunity to dig deeper into black history and become more educated on my own culture. This class is also taught on an AP level so we can learn more through the rigor of the work. The class is taught in three units for the semester: the first was exploring and brainstorming a definition of blackness in America. The second is learning about black U.S. history from slavery to today. The final unit is on Afro-futurism, a philosophy of science and history that explores the future of technology and the African diaspora culture. We also teach five eighth-graders what we’ve learned. In the spring, there will be a trip to Alabama and Atlanta where we will visit many famous black history sites and visit a historically black college or university.
Many privileged people are ignorant to the oppression of minorities because of the small number who end up successful and wealthy. Someone in my class asked the head of the humanities department, who has a degree in Africana Studies, what it could be used for. Once she said that “it could be used for literally anything,” something in me made me think this could be more important than my curiosity. Society teaches people that a white, cisgender male is the ideal person to succeed in America, but this class reprograms our brains to have us believe that Black Americans can achieve and be successful too.
Another benefit of this class is the fundraising we do for the trip to Georgia and Alabama. Our class fundraising has taught us multiple ways of communicating professionally when asking for money. One thing that shocked me was when someone from a radio station came to our class and interviewed us. It surprised me so much. I asked him if it was for an article and when I found out it was for a radio station I felt like I almost jumped out of my seat while I briefly covered my mouth. The interview was important to me because I am usually very shy and learning to communicate and advertise professionally can help me talk to people more. The younger people are when they learn professional skills as well as Africana Studies, the better equipped they will be to become successful citizens of the world.