In the wake of ongoing protests for racial justice, educators all over the world are taking advantage of the unique opportunity they have to shape progress in the classroom with anti-racist curriculums, more inclusive history materials, and systemic change both at micro- and macro-levels.
Below, ELLE.com spoke with a principal, a teacher, a coach, and a student all going beyond surface-level initiatives to dismantle white supremacy and celebrate diversity at school.
Aicha Davis, State Board of Education Member
After visiting D.C.’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, Texas State Board of Education member Aicha Davis, 39, was inspired to design an elective studies course for the state’s high schoolers that focuses on 19th-century contributions made by African Americans. The class was approved in April and is now being considered for implementation by districts in Houston, Waco, San Antonio, and Dallas. Learn more here.
“All students should have an opportunity to learn about their heritage and their triumphs. They should also receive a fair chance to learn truths about diverse cultures and contributions to society. History has not typically been written from the perspective of minority people. The ultimate goal of the course is empowerment and advocacy. I want students leaving the class with a deep understanding of the past and ideas to improve equity for the future.”
Amber Roberts, Instructional Coach
History teachers in Virginia have been hard at work this summer crafting an anti-racist curriculum through an initiative called “Reframing the Narrative.” Amber Roberts, 36, is an Instructional Coach at Albemarle County Public Schools in Charlottesville and sits on the steering committee for the project, which she says focuses on “understanding the legacy of race and racism, exploring how those legacy impact ourselves, and developing our skills as antiracist educators.” Learn more here.
“I believe in justice, and providing all children with an antiracist education is [a form of] justice. A fellow educator I admire tremendously, Adrienne Oliver, once said that, ‘an antiracist education is a form of reparations.’ I think she’s right. We can’t heal our societal wounds unless we understand the disease. For me, the overall goal is simply for kids to be taught the truth in a way that allows them to have agency around that truth. I want conversations about race and racism not to feel controversial or taboo. I want BIPOC students to feel safe and seen in their schools and in the lessons they are taught.”
Malone Mukwende, Medical Student
During his second year of medical school at St. George’s University of London, Malone Mukwende, 20, didn’t see any diversity when it came to teaching clinical signs on different skin tones. So he teamed up with two St. George lecturers to create a handbook called “Mind the Gap” to show physicians how symptom appear on Black skin. Mukwende hopes it will be used in healthcare settings all over the world when it becomes available for distribution. Learn more here.
“A lot of medical textbooks I’ve used contain imagery of white skin, but ignore darker skin tones. It’s imperative that medical students learn about a diverse range. I mean, we’ve seen during the COVID-19 pandemic that patients from a BAME [Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic] background are more likely to be affected. Some of the [medical] guidance in the U.K. about COVID-19 includes warning signs like being ‘blue’ around the lips, but that descriptor doesn’t appear the same on dark skin, and so could be missed. I worked on this book for the people impacted by the gap in medical teaching.”
Kimberly Grayson, High School Principal
Students at Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Early College in Denver, Colorado, began demanding a more inclusive curriculum last year after a trip to D.C.’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. High school principal Kimberly Grayson, 44, helped them design new history courses that better represent African American students, their history, culture, and modern day experiences. Learn more here.
“Normal history classes only touch on the major icons such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks. Basically, our students felt they were missing a lot of [other important] history. The students presented their learnings to the instructional superintendents and questioned why Black history was not represented. The [police killing of] George Floyd sparked another fire within my students and myself. We realized student voices are important, now than ever. [It’s important to] create systems of trust and equity within school environments, first. Listen to your students and let them lead.”
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