Tomorrow, Friday, February 17th, the Rochester City School District and its community of educators will observe Black Lives Matter at School: A Day of Understanding & Affirmation.
The day of education, dialog and action will “actively engage a significant number of educational communities throughout Monroe County in activities which support understanding and affirmation of Black Lives.” This day is meant as the beginning of ongoing conversations and actions.
Last year, we spoke with the Director of the RCSD’s Department of African & African-American Studies, Djinga King-St. Louis. In On Afro Centric charter schools and making learning relevant for students of color, we discussed whether Ms. King-St. Louis supported Afrocentric schools. As she said, “Personally, instead of more Afro Centric charter schools, I would like to see more Afro Centric ideas infused into public schools.”
Today, George Payne , a graduate of the Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School, philosophy teacher at Finger Lakes Community College and the founder of Gandhi Earth Keepers International, argues that “racism will not begin to go away until the true history of African civilization is taught to all children.”
African History is Human History
Where were the first recipes crafted? Where were the first instruments made? Who engineered the first tools? Who developed the first trails and roads? Who invented magic and the rituals of theology? Who were the first stargazers? Who were the first poets and philosophers? Who were the pioneers of exploration? Who were the first medicine men and shamans? Who started farming and fishing long before agriculture? Where did all knowledge emanate from? It was not Beverly Hills or Boston. It was Africa. It is the origin of human consciousness.
Tragically, in America today, this history is too often ignored, suppressed, co-opted, or generally misunderstood by most white people. The result of this denial breeds the most perverse forms of social inequality. The African- American male lives 5 years less than the average white American male. 1 in every 15 African- American men and 1 in every 36 Hispanic men get incarcerated in comparison to 1 in every 106 white men. Unarmed black people get killed at 6x the rate of unarmed whites. And, for every level of educational attainment, black Americans have unemployment rates that are similar to or higher than those of less educated white Americans.
W.E.B. Du Bois once wrote:
Strange, is it not, my brothers, how often in America those great watchwords of human energy – “Be strong!” “Know thyself!” “Hitch your wagon to a star!’”– how often these die away into dim whispers when we face these seething millions of black men? And yet do they not belong to them? Are they not their heritage as well as yours?
How would our nation change if whites saw Iraq as the genesis of religion rather than Rome? What if our gods were looked for in Calcutta rather than California? What if our future prosperity is with Shanghai rather than Sixth Avenue? What would that look like?
As I see it, racism will not begin to go away until the true history of African civilization is taught to all children. This is not about observing a special month. This is not about affirmative action. This is not about playing the race card. This has nothing to do with appealing to a constituency. This is not about political correctness. This is not about anything other than ending racism. The only way that racism is going to end, is when all children learn where humankind originated from. It is that simple. Human civilization began somewhere. To not know this in depth is to be lost in the world as an orphan of missing time.