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HomeNewsA Brooklyn school's students fought to add AP African American Studies to...

A Brooklyn school’s students fought to add AP African American Studies to their curriculum

In June 2020, after the killings of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd galvanized racial injustice protests globally, Brooklyn Preparatory Excessive Faculty organized a discussion board for its workers and the predominantly Black and Hispanic pupil physique to share their ideas and specific their emotions.

“These three deaths particularly had an impact on all of us, but additionally particularly our college students,” mentioned J.P. King, a historical past trainer and the chief expertise officer on the New York Metropolis faculty, “and our administration and lecturers prioritized listening to what college students needed to say about it.”

The discussion board, held by way of Zoom because the Covid pandemic disrupted training, was open to the complete faculty and included a panel of workers members and college students. What got here from it was an outpouring of feelings — in addition to a common frustration from college students about not seeing themselves sufficient within the curriculum, King and directors mentioned. 

With the assistance of their assistant principal and the backing of the AP for All initiative of the New York Metropolis Division of Schooling, college students and workers launched a petition calling for African American Research to be among the many School Board’s Superior Placement choices. After a two-year push, the varsity is now amongst 60 throughout the nation taking part in a pilot program launched this fall for AP African American Research — at a time when instructing about race is underneath assault throughout the US. 

Amirah Riddick, 17, of Brooklyn, who was among the many college students who advocated for the course to be added to Brooklyn Prep’s AP choices, described it as “a sport changer.”

Amirah Riddick.Marc J. Franklin / NBC Information

“Quite a lot of our historical past courses, we study white historical past like Europeans, like colonization, and loads of issues like that,” mentioned Riddick, a senior who hopes to check journalism at Northwestern College. “And I really feel like us being principally Hispanic, principally African American college students, principally Caribbean college students, we do not get to be taught quite a bit about our cultures and the ways in which we had been thriving. We be taught extra concerning the ways in which we had been confined like in slavery, and simply how we had been handled.”

Throughout a current class, Brooklyn Prep Assistant Principal Shannah Henderson, who teaches the course, had college students work in small teams to investigate the poem “Heritage” by Countee Cullen. She mentioned her position is primarily to remind the scholars “concerning the completely different views, and the completely different voices” and to handle the completely different cultural expectations of the kids, in line with the course design. 

If not for her, this system might not have come to Brooklyn Prep. 

Shannah Henderson speaks to a student during Brooklyn Preparatory High School’s African American studies AP course
Shannah Henderson speaks to a pupil throughout Brooklyn Preparatory Excessive Faculty’s AP African American research course in Brooklyn, N.Y. on Wednesday.Marc J. Franklin / NBC Information

Henderson has been the varsity’s AP coordinator for a decade and mentioned in that point, she has “had the privilege of listening to the scholars’ complaints” about which AP courses they did not have. In June 2020, King helped her draft a pair of tweets addressed to the School Board, demanding a course that speaks to their college students’ “historical past, heritage, tradition, lives and experiences.”

Henderson mentioned Trevor Packer, the senior vice chairman and the pinnacle of the AP Program and the instruction division, responded.

“And what he mentioned was, there was curiosity in doing it from the School Board, however they discovered it was not sufficient curiosity from universities. So that they had been nonetheless engaged on it,” Henderson mentioned. 

Someday final 12 months, she mentioned, she realized concerning the pilot program however Brooklyn Prep had not been invited to take part. So she once more contacted Packer. “I mentioned, ‘Hey, we did the petition, bear in mind us?’ And we received into the pilot program,” she mentioned.

Requested what it required to be thought-about for the pilot program, Henderson mentioned: “Curiosity and help out of your faculty district. And your principal clearly.”

Henderson traveled to Howard College in July to be skilled on tips on how to train the course. She mentioned that as a result of she would not have a level in African American research, she was additionally required to take on-line programs on the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American Historical past.

The School Board has mentioned that the course had been a decade within the making. Henderson credited Packer with being receptive to her college students and their petition and mentioned that she believes the racial reckoning of 2020 and the rise of pupil voices and activism throughout that point “undoubtedly helped to place up a spark in a fireplace.” 

Khia Williams in Brooklyn Preparatory High School’s African American studies AP course
Khia Williams, 17, is amongst these enrolled within the course and who had advocated for it.Marc J. Franklin / NBC Information

In response to an interview request from NBC Information, the School Board mentioned it lately printed a set of ideas for all AP programs making clear that college students will encounter proof, weigh competing viewpoints, and are available to their very own conclusions. 

“AP college students are by no means required to agree with a specific opinion or undertake a specific ideology, however they’re anticipated to investigate completely different views,” it mentioned in an announcement.

AP African American Research is multidisciplinary, drawing from literature, the humanities and humanities, political science, geography and science. The course is anticipated to be accessible to all excessive colleges within the 2024-25 faculty 12 months, as soon as faculties and universities have confirmed their credit score and placement insurance policies for the course’s AP examination, the School Board mentioned. 

“As with all AP programs within the humanities, it isn’t a principle course; college students as a substitute immerse themselves in main sources,” it mentioned. “The course is designed to encourage college students to look at every theme from quite a lot of views, with out ideology, in step with the sector’s custom of debates.”

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