Harkening back to the effort to institute the Curriculum of Inclusion of the 1980s, New York lawmakers state Senator Jesse Hamilton and state Assembly member Diana Richardson advanced legislation requiring the NYS Board of Regents to incorporate New York State’s Black History in the New York City school curricula for kindergarten to 12th grade. The two lawmakers made their intentions public in May 2017 and continue to realize Black History in New York City public schools today. On January 3, 2018, Hamilton sponsored S5454A in the New York Senate and it was placed in the Education Committee. S5454A “relates to establishing the Commission on African-American History and Achievement.” Co-sponsors include Marisol Alcantara (D), 31st SD; Velmanette Montgomery (D), 25th SD; George Latimer (D),? Senate District; and Diane J. Savino (D, IP, WA), 23rd SD. The state Assembly version of the bill is A7192.
On Sunday, March 4, 2018, Senator Hamilton held the “Black Minds Matter March and Rally.” The rally was held on the steps of Medgar Evers College School of Science, Health and Technology at 1638 Bedford Avenue. It was a cold, breezy day; however, Brooklyn United Marching Band, a teen ensemble, led community leaders and residents along the march route, which was the circumference of Medgar Evers College Administrative Building at 1650 Bedford Avenue to return to the steps of 1638 Bedford Avenue to allow the 15 invited speakers to orate. District Leader Geoffrey Davis stated, “We want Black History in public schools.” Norelda Cotterel, PTA President of Medgar Evers College Preparatory High School, informed the body that “Medgar Evers College [College Preparatory High School] is under attack by the [New York City] Department of Education. Teachers are being sanctioned for adding Black History items in the different subjects. This high school is an Early High School, Early College School where the student body moves on to graduate from such Ivy League schools as MIT.”
The Black Institute Executive Director Bertha Lewis remarked, “In the 60s and 70s we were fighting for a Black curriculum, and in the 2010s we are still fighting for a Black curriculum. We are given the shortest month, which is the coldest month of the year, to celebrate. When are we going to get Black education?” Jamila Davis, author of She’s All Caught Up and who was sentenced to 12½ years in prison for a bank fraud scheme, remarked, “While I was sentenced to 12½ years behind bars, my accountants who prepared my tax filings, were given 2½ years. Davis told the crowd that during her imprisonment, she completed high school, earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Davis’ presence at the rally was to wake up youth and adults to the allure of street life and fast money.
Nation of Islam Minister Paul Muhammad attended the march and rally in support of the state Senator. Muhammad said, “We have our own school, 50 years and counting.” This statement was made to encourage private citizens, civic organizations and houses of worship to commit to “collective work and responsibility” and building the institutions a community requires to survive and thrive. Altogether, 14 people were scheduled to talk. The last two speakers were state Senator Marisol Alcantara, a S5454A co-sponsor, and state Senator Jesse Hamilton. Senator Alcantara explained the legislation to the public. St. Senator Hamilton’s (IDC) comments were of a humanistic nature. Highlights of his speech include, “Gentrification can only happen if you’re undereducated. We have a struggle in front of us…keep fighting. We are taking a stand: Black Minds Matter.” The senator noted that the Working Families Party had an office on Bedford Avenue, in close proximity to the Medgar Evers College campus. Hamilton remarked, “Working Families Party says they are for us but they are not here today.” Hamilton said that his effort to include Black History in the curriculum of New York State’s most populous city has won him much hostility. The state senator has received telephone calls from people who curse and disparage him. These incidents give him the resolve to continue until the bill is voted into law and signed off by the governor. Hamilton’s essential statement is, “We have to have Black History in our public schools.”