School board members will consider adding a mandatory
African-American studies course for high school students in
Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools.

The curriculum committee of the
Winston-Salem/Forsyth County School Board will consider adding a mandatory
African-American studies class to the high school curriculum at its October
meeting.

Board Vice-Chair Barbara Burke, who
chairs the curriculum committee, announced the decision at the end of a school
board meeting on Tuesday night, after the board heard from several residents
requesting the change.

“I am announcing on behalf of the
curriculum committee that we will include consideration of a required
African-American studies course as a part of our new high school course
offerings process,” Burke said. “And you know we have to follow a process. New
courses come before the committee for consideration at the October meeting. At
our September curriculum committee meeting, we will review background
information about African-American history. We will hear from those experts on
our staff. And we will talk about the implementation and any issues that may
arise. And then we said at our October meeting we will move it to the agenda.”

In addition to Burke, an
African-American Democrat from Winston-Salem, the curriculum committee includes
three white members. Lori Goins Clark, the Republican vice-chair, and Deanna Kaplan,
a Democrat, live in Lewisville. Leah Crowley, a Republican, lives in
Winston-Salem.

“I would like to make it very clear
to everyone here that I 1,000 percent support everyone here who spoke out for
African-American history — a mandatory course,” Burke said.

“We cannot continue to allow members
of our committee to come to these meetings week after week after week [with
residents] pouring their hearts out making this request, with us just letting
their request fall on deaf ears,” she continued. “Because we are moving
forward. This ball is rolling.”

Steve Brooks was one of eight people
who spoke in favor of a mandatory African-American studies class.

“When we look at history, history is
one-sided for African Americans here in Winston-Salem,” Brooks said. “When I
was in school, I was taught about all the cultures except my own. When I look
at what we have contributed to this country, that’s not represented in our
education and how we’re taught.

“When we look at the disparity in
our education and we wonder why does it appear that one group seems to excel
more than others?” he continued. “Why do some students seem interested and
other students seem disinterested? It is what you’re feeding them. If you feed
an African-American student a one-sided story that does not include themselves,
then they become hungry to learn more about themselves. Adding an
African-American history class that is mandatory will do that for
African-American students.”

Everette Witherspoon, a former
county commissioner, told school board members: “When African-American children
are taught every day and every year that they are slaves and they are
second-class citizens and taught that the great leaders of industry for the
most part are white, the great business people are white, the great politicians
are white and the great inventors are white, then it becomes a self-fulfilling
prophecy. And no wonder we have school-to-prison pipeline.”

Commissioner Fleming El-Amin, a
retired Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools teacher, also made the case for a
mandatory African-American studies course. “If a child’s inspired to see
themselves in a classroom,” El-Amin said, “they can achieve untold results
sometimes. So I plead with you: Give it your full consideration.”

El-Amin is only one of a number of local
elected officials in support of the curriculum change. Zina Johnson, the
community assistance liaison for Winston-Salem’s North Ward, read a statement
on behalf of Councilwoman DD Adams, and Destiny Blackwell, with Hate Out of
Winston-Salem, read a statement on behalf of Councilman James Taylor. Blackwell
said state Sen. Paul Lowe and state Rep. Evelyn Terry have also gone on record
to express their support.

Student Minister Effrainguan
Muhammad said the Winston-Salem Local Organizing Committee has been asking for
a mandatory African-American studies course for the past three years. Muhammad
said that over the last three years community leaders “have repeatedly met with
various members of the board “only to be told, ‘We’re looking into it. We need
more information.’ We are now at a crossroads where a decision has to be made.”

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