By Dr. Kimberly Porter, Guest Blogger
A few years ago, I was an English/Language Arts teacher at an urban charter school in Columbus, Ohio. This school was created for students who needed to catch up on credits to graduate, and/or who did not do well socially in the traditional school setting. They ranged in age from 15 to 21, and the majority were students of color. These were students who really didn’t care much about school, particularly writing and reading. Some acted as if I asked for their wallet, a kidney, AND their cell phones when I asked them to write a short essay or read a paragraph. I had to be creative to get them to read; so I did.
Even though I taught English, I incorporated Black and Latinix history wherever I could. I highlighted Black authors such as Alexandre Dumas, and taught Latinix students to explore their native heritage by watching movies like “Apocolypto”. But during Black History Month, I did not teach about the “Big Four”; Martin Luther King, Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, and Rosa Parks. They already knew about these icons. Instead, I introduced them to innovators like Lewis Latimer, explorers like Matthew Henson, artists like Selma Burke, engineers like Benjamin Banneker, and so on. They were intrigued, as they had not heard of these people, and were eager to learn more. In so doing, they had to (GASP!) read!
As we start a new year after the social turmoil that was 2020, we should continue to build off of the momentum of Black Lives Matter and educate our children on our MANY contributions to world and American history. If our children understand that they are descended from greatness, they will discover their own talents and bring forth more Black greatness. Each one, teach one. I have, and I will!
“They were intrigued, as they had not heard of these people, and were eager to learn more. In so doing, they had to (GASP!) read! “
Dr. Kimberly Porter is the director of the CLIMB program at her alma mater, Wilberforce University. She is a published author, singer, songwriter, and poet who resides in central Ohio.