Members of the Shelby County School Board want to create an expanded version of African-American studies for K-12 curriculum districtwide. The proposal came from board member Stephanie Love, the District 3 representative. It argued that current curriculum has failed to remedy the negative impacts students face from the “continuous and systemic murder of African-Americans by law enforcement” and the county’s high homicide rates.
The proposal also stated that current curriculum only covers slavery and limits its scope to certain, bigger historical figures such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. If passed, the resolution would draft an expansive K-12 curriculum by June and implement the curriculum in the fall.
In an interview with The Tennessee Star, Love explained that this idea was borne out of ongoing issues with racial inequities nationwide, as well as certain issues that impacted the community in Memphis. According to Love, the district and various principals have also received requests from parents about expanding African-American studies.
“I think that we have to make sure that everyone understands that African American history is an asset to our lives, to our future. I think we’re in a position now where we can speak truth to power and teach truth to power, and be very unapologetic in explaining to our children who they are and where they came from and the sacrifices their ancestors have made in this world,” stated Love. “I don’t want people to get it misconstrued that as a black race we have it all together. I also know some of us don’t necessarily treat our own race with dignity and respect. It’s my hope that this curriculum empowers everyone in this district to treat everyone with dignity and respect, regardless of color. It’s not being culturally sensitive, it’s about respecting everyone regardless of their color.”
The curriculum would focus on historical figures who haven’t received due attention. Love noted that those individuals – such as Ida B. Wells, Lucie Campbell, Maxine Smith, Blanche K. Bruce – contributed much to society without proper recognition in the educational system.
Love added that she’s been looking to support other cultural studies expansions as well – namely, a calendar identifying and celebrating the different races, cultures, and heritages of students within Shelby County Schools.
“In order to give our students and support our students with what they need, we have to make sure our information is relevant to them at this time,” stated Love. “I know there’s already an African American Studies curriculum for our 9th and 12th graders – something I learned that was disheartening was that [those classes] had no participation.”
Love told The Star that their plan of action to bring the expanded African-American studies will be presented at their next academics committee meeting, in addition to the results of an equity audit performed on the district.
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