Afrocentric American Literature and Afrocentric U.S. History classes have created a community with CVHS African American students. These classes have sparked a discussion of race in ways that have truly opened the eyes of these students. They have brought all of the students together in a unique way, teaching them to understand the effects of racism in school, outside of school, and their daily lives.
“It’s really important as African Americans to learn about our history, and in most of our previous English and history classes, teachers almost never discuss anything that has to do with African American history. They usually just skip through it,” said junior Ashleigh Davis.
Teachers Lauren Beck and Kevin Batchelor created their classes in ways that have shown students their true background. A memorable moment for many students was when they discussed if slavery was still in existence, and if any of the students feel as if the world they live in is putting them in a box of labels and stereotypes. This conversation had students talking and discovering the reality they face today.
“I feel more comfortable speaking my opinion in these classes because I know there are people who have had the same issues I have dealt with. But in my other classes, I’m afraid to speak my mind because I’m the only black girl in there, so I just keep to myself,” said junior Ileana McDonald.
“I do think there are issues, there are perceptual problems among the staff in the terms of how they view their African American students; there are issues in terms of how non-black students view black students. I think there are curricular issues, in the way our curriculum fails to bring African American experiences into the curriculum outside of the classes. But it comes down to the African American students not feeling like this is a place they are fully welcomed, and have a place that wants them here,” said Batchelor.
Leaving a question for all of CVHS residents: are we doing everything possible to make our African American students feel like a part of the school? How can we all come together to make each other feel welcome? These are the questions that need to be asked.
“I feel responsibility to instill respect in humanity and sympathize with their struggles, but how do we take the struggles and turn them into a learning opportunity and change the culture that we’re in? That’s the question we face in this class,” said Beck.
The curriculum is considerably different from regular junior English and history classes.
“If you compare the expectations in terms of workload and content knowledge, reading in the Afrocentric classes or Literature classes…what we’re doing is so much more. Students are reading more primary source work and the textbooks are college level books compared to regular classes,” said Batchelor.
These classes work to bring students closer to their history through the African American perspective. However, it is disappointing that African American students have to take a class like this to learn something that should have been discussed in every English and history class. It is noteable to mention that African American history is American history, and that many of the topics discussed in Afrocentric classes should be covered in American history classes. It is up to the student and the school to recognize this discrepency.
“We are smart, we can do what you can, just because you see the stereotype doesn’t mean we can’t do it. We are smart, we have a mind of our own,” said junior Baylis Gregoriana.