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DeKalb community members address school board, say District 428 needs to teach Black history

DeKALB – After a meeting with community members about racial issues in DeKalb District 428, School Board President Sarah Moses said one of the themes she most noticed was how the curriculum around black history was lacking.

Chris Grays, a 2019 graduate of DeKalb, was the first speaker and brought it up almost immediately.

“I feel like when we talked about black culture, we talked about slavery, Rosa Parks and MLK and that’s it,” Grays said. “That’s a disservice to every person in the community. We never talked about people like Ida B. Wells. We never talked about people like W.E.B. DuBois. We never talked about the black power movement. We shied away from things like that.”

Seven community members showed up to make comments in person in the socially distanced school board meeting room, with all participants in masks.

Lige Caples, a 2018 graduate of DeKalb agreed with Grays about curriculum being lacking when it comes to black history beyond slavery, Martin Luther King Jr., and Rosa Parks.

“As of maybe two days ago I didn’t know what Juneteenth was,” said Caples, referring to the celebration of June 19 as the day salves in Texas found out they were free, the final state to free slaves nearly two and a half years after the emancipation proclamation. “I felt bad because I’m one of the leaders from the protests here in DeKalb. I’ve been fairly involved in that. I didn’t really voice this to anybody but I felt hypocritical cause I wasn’t given the opportunity to know what that is.”

Grays spoke first, saying that as a K-12 student at DeKalb, he encountered very few black teachers and administrators. He also said teaching black history through only the lens of slavery is problematic.

“If we talk about slavery as black history, we’re putting the superior ideas on all our youth,” Grays said. “I can remember many times in elementary school I was at recess kids would be like it’s crazy my people used to own your people. That’s crazy. That’s not history. Black history did not start with slavery nor did it end with slavery.”

Moses said other issues she heard from community members, who also submitted questions online, stemmed from diversity within educators and leadership and restorative justice in the schools with less criminalization.

“It was wonderful to have the community come forward, especially kids come forward and advocate for themselves,” Moses said. “It’s extremely helpful to us going forward because we want to provide culturally responsive education, and take the needs of all our students into consideration.”

At the close of the meeting, incoming interim superintendent Griff Powell said he considered Friday to be just a beginning.

“There were things brought up here we should respond to,” said Powell, who along with Ray Lechner will take over for outgoing superintendent Jamie Craven on July 1.

Source: The Daily Chronicle

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