African American History Civil Rights Education Education Reform Equity and Justice

Black History: Every *GD* Month

Black History: Every *GD* Month

This time of year is always hard for me.  February is Black History Month, and I don’t celebrate it.  It’s not because I don’t embrace my history. And it’s certainly not that I’m not grateful for the 28 days, sometimes 29 days that we’ve been given to celebrate.  I don’t celebrate Black History Month because I know the truth.  The truth is, there would be no American History without African American History.


So, rather than celebrate them month that has been allotted, I celebrate African American History every day. February is just another month for me to continue doing what I always do, embrace the energy of our ancestors, with the hopes of one day making them proud.

If you are celebrating African American History, do it in a culturally responsive manner.  As you embrace the present, do not ever forget what it took for us to get to this point.  Do not forget about the trauma that may still exist.  This trauma should never be undervalued.

Energy in the Classroom:

Moreover, as a former classroom teacher, one can empathize with the struggles experienced by K-12 teachers.  There are tons of extraneous factors that play into how successful one may be in the classroom.  These factors are heightened when teachers are placed in Urban school districts, forced to deal with students that have been inherently disenfranchised, and suffer from systemic trauma.  Some of the trauma associated with our students dates back to over 400 years to slavery.


Notwithstanding, there are people that will be unapologetically against the notion that slavery plays a part in common-day trauma.  To those people one asks, were you forced out of your country, shipped to a foreign land and made to work for free? Did you read books designed to lead you to salvation galvanized to trick you into thinking what occurred during slavery was your destiny?  Did people feed you food high in sodium, which in turn made most of your race susceptible to cardiovascular disease?  Were your women raped?  Have you been separated from your family? Did times exist when you’d rather die than to be living in your current circumstance?

If the answer to these questions is no, I’d highly suggest you take a seat.

If the answer to your question is no, but you’d like to learn more about how to best help my students that carry this hurt and pain, pay close attention, because it’s a mindset.

Here are some ways to better engage African American parents in February and beyond:

1. Black folks don’t want your handouts. We just want to be recognized as 5/5ths a person. That’s right, a Whole person.
2. We don’t want you to feel sorry for us, we want you to teach us. I don’t know a more straightforward way to put this.
3. Treat us like you are preparing us for college, and not prison.
4. Engage with parents like they are allies and not enemies. PoC want what’s best for their children.

Civil Rights Education Parenting Teachers Teaching

Students Forced to Reenact Slave Trauma

Teacher Terminated for Slave Reenactment Lesson:

Recently a New York City public school teacher was terminated for having her students act like slaves in a planned lesson.

Picture of slave

Firstly, there has to be a massive disconnect for any educator on any level to feel as if it would make sense for students to reenact slavery.

Slavery within itself was one of the most traumatic periods in the history of the modern world. As a professional, to make the call to project said trauma on kids, is at best reckless, at worst maybe even criminal. It’s beyond me how any person, of any race, could think this was a good idea.

Colleague Says He was okay with the lesson:

Next, and maybe even equally as destructive as the slave lesson, an African-American teacher colleague of Ms. Cummings said: “I would have let my kids take part the lesson.” Honestly, I’m not sure what’s worse. Under no circumstances would I allow students to experience such abuse. Let alone my own kids. The adults directly involved in this case failed these students from a humanitarian perspective.

The teacher and teachers that have been terminated for similar acts are potentially filing a 1 Billion dollar class action lawsuit against the NYCDOE. The suit of the teacher involved in this article is for 120 million dollars.

Moreover, society is way too litigious. Teachers have unions. If the unions couldn’t get this teacher her job back, its safe to assume that an independent arbitrator also decided that this teacher and teachers like her weren’t fit to be teachers.

Student Trauma:

In addition, to then take the trauma inflicted on students to make yourself the victim is where I draw the line. Are the families of these students suing the teacher. In my mind, they would have every right to file a lawsuit. Given the potential animus that the students will have toward school, one would be remiss to say this experience ruined permanently dimmed the light for these students.

Notwithstanding, I agree with Ms. Cummings in that this is a teachable moment, but not for her, for the students. That lesson is when you do something that is egregious as having students relive ancestry trauma, you get held accountable for it. Sometimes lessons end up in termination. In this case, NYCDOE did the right thing for students.

For those of you unfamiliar with lawsuits and how they work, NYCDOE’s insurance company will settle with Ms. Cummings. It’s less for insurance to pay than it is for them to dispute this in court.