by Stanley Kinard
The educational system in New York City has always played a major part in mayoral elections. This year is no different, in light of the recent changes to the Department of Education, the results of this mayoral election holds great implications for our children. So, in the same way that the UFT is demanding an increase in teachers’ salaries, Black New Yorkers for Educational Excellence (BNYEE) is a demanding a Black History curriculum in our schools as our primary issue.
Both candidates have made education a focus of their campaigns, yet neither have addressed the Black community’s call for Black History in our schools. Our issue is just as important as teacher salaries or class size. It is one that we must be uncompromising about. Contrary to the polls, Freddy Ferrer can win the race for mayor if he secures 80% of the Black vote. Thus far, many Black people are withholding support for Freddy because of his statement that the murder of Amadou Diallo was not a crime. Freddy is going to have to flip-flop one more time if he wants to win, and he needs the Black vote to win this election. I would also demand that Ferrer advocate that Black and Latino Studies be taught throughout the curriculum and make this a part of his education agenda. Black political leaders consistently fail to make this issue a part of the campaign debate. Subsequently, Freddy Ferrer nor Mike Bloomberg are not compelled to speak on this or any substantive issue. However, as Freddy makes his way through the many pulpits and community centers in our neighborhoods, we must pose the following questions to him wherever he goes:
1) What is your plan to address Black Male Unemployment?
2) Will you make the teaching of Black History in schools a focus of your education agenda?
3)Do you still feel that the murder of Amadou Diallo was not a crime?
If Freddy can give a favorable response to these questions then we should defeat Mike Bloomberg and make Freddy Ferrer the first Latino Mayor of New York.
I would be remiss if I did not address the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina and the issues that have been brought to the forefront due to the response, or lack thereof, by the government. Rebellion or Revolution is the title of a book written by Harold Cruse. It addressed the state of the Black Liberation Movement in the late 1960’s and how we should move forward. In light of Katrina, we must raise this question again. The devastating results of Katrina was a classic example of benign neglect. The failed economy and compromised levees were there before the hurricane struck. The poverty and environmental racism was there before Katrina struck. The same benign neglect that exists throughout the Black Belt South exists throughout New York City, where over 50% of Black males are unemployed and 60% of our youth drop out of school. At this point, we have no exit strategy to escape this Katrina reality. We do not have to wait for a storm to hit us, Katrina began when we were enslaved and brought to America. In education, so many Black youth are wading in the water trying to get through an educational system that refuses to teach them their history and subjects them to high-stakes culturally insensitive tests.
Education activist groups like BNYEE and ICOPE are putting out a call for unity around the principle of education as a human right. The content, philosophy and control of education can no longer be defined by corporate America. We must also demand as reparations all of the resources necessary to implement a Black Cultural Curriculum in all of our schools.
BNYEE will also be working with the Million More Movement and organizing communities to host Black Solidarity Day education forums throughout New York City. BYNEE is requesting that we embrace the original tenets of Black Solidarity Day-No Work, No School and Spending Money with Black-owned Businesses Only. We must take this historic opportunity to teach our children and others of the history of enslaved Africans and of the glorious history that has been stripped from us.
Our freedom, liberation and empowerment is dependent upon us being properly educated. It all begins with our history. The liberation of Black folks is contingent upon us knowing and embracing our history and culture.