New York

Africology class unlocks hidden Black History Month stories for middle schoolers in East New York, Brooklyn

EAST NEW YORK, Brooklyn (WABC) — WABC-TV is proud to celebrate Black History Month. We commemorate the contributions of African Americans and highlight how the tri-state region is learning from the past to create a better future.

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A school in New York City has planted a seed of learning that could grow statewide.

It’s a unique lesson plan.

Elements of black history can be found in every corner of the East New York Middle School of Excellence.

“It is very important that our children understand that their story did not begin here in this hemisphere. They have a rich history that goes as far back as history itself,” said Malik Small, principal of the East New York Middle School of Excellence.

For this reason, dr. Small started this Africanology course a few years ago. The Black Studies program is a prerequisite for all classes.

There is a renewed push to implement a similar curriculum in all public schools across the state.

Small sits on the New York State Commission on African American History. It aims to find and unlock hidden stories throughout the Empire State.

Governor Kathy Hochul signed an executive order establishing the commission last year.

“We have congregations across the state, not just in Auburn, New York, home of Harriet Tubman, but we have had a strong presence in every part of the state,” said Robert J. Rodriguez, secretary of state and commission chairman. “So it’s important that we recognize and celebrate these community efforts, and that we continue to allow these communities to explore this rich history.”

The commission is planning a “listening tour” across New York.

“Maybe some of these individuals have been in these communities for years and know posts and know people we’ve never heard of,” said Hazel Dukes, president of the NAACP New York State Conference.

Stories like how Mother AME Zion Church in Harlem was recognized as the oldest black church in the state.

The commission will present its findings to the governor.

“It is intended to be an actionable roadmap for how we recognize, celebrate, and where necessary change the experiences of African Americans in the state,” Rodriguez said. “As a Latino man who identifies as a child of the African diaspora, it wasn’t easy to understand.”

That’s why officials say courses like Dr. Small are the key.

“We’re learning about the civil rights movement,” said one student.

There is so much more to discover.

“Other people write our story and leave things out, it’s so important. Now we’re making our story,” Dukes said.

The New York State Commission on African American History will hold its next meeting on February 9 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Philipse Manor Hall in Yonkers.

You are invited to come out and share stories from your community.


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