We’re Still Teaching Black History, COVID-19 Be Damned

On March 13, 2020 at 10:14AM, I posted,

If the School District of Philadelphia shuts down, I will offer free virtual African American History instruction to any child currently taking the course (regardless of whether they’re public, charter, private or homeschooled). I’m going to work on details over the weekend and share more. If you or another parent is interested in participating please let me know.

I hesitated to post this announcement. I had been thinking about posting it all morning long but I knew that it would be a huge responsibility and I’d have a very short learning curve to get it up and running. Honestly, I also doubted myself and my abilities:

Who was I to be able to pull off a live class? What if the kids hated me? What if no one logged on? What if I made a mistake?

Everyone will think I’m a horrible teacher. I just didn’t think that I could actually deliver what I was intending to do.

Yet, I still posted the announcement in spite of those questions. I had no idea how I would do this class, what platform I would use, or if students would even show up. However, my passion would not allow my doubts and fears to overtake what needed to be done.

I’ve always said, I wish people could see what we do in our class and I’ve always brainstormed ways to make videos available so that as many children as possible learned this history. Then COVID-19 happened and that what if became a reality. 

People started to share the post even more once it was announced that schools would be closed for a week. Immediately I started researching the best way to create a virtual class. A recent email from the School District informed us that we had access to Google Hangout Meet. This app also allows teachers to record meetings so that students can access the lessons later.

I took my daughter’s white board that she’d so lovingly put a school calendar on, erased it, and set it up in my dining room for me to use. Then I set to work creating a flyer. Once that was posted on Facebook, a teacher friend from Central, Elizabeth Williams shared it with her students and before we knew it, there were over 100 signatures on the consent form. 

Going into our 3rd week of virtual class, I have to say that though it’s been trying, we are thriving! Ms. Williams, also logs on every day to provide additional learning and support. So, students essentially have live access to not ONE but TWO African American History teachers 4 days a week. Obviously, teaching online is not the ideal situation, but it’s the best option we have under the circumstances.

Marcus Garvey once said, A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots. If we want to change the condition of society, access to African American History is a NECESSITY! 

Our goal is to reach as many students as we can through this trying time. I’d argue, some of the most important historical moments have yet to come in the curriculum and students should not miss out on that. The Harlem Renaissance, the Civil Rights Movement, the Black Power Movement are essential learning because it highlights the connection to organizational building and Black Lives Matter.  

Not only does African American History encourage students to make connections between history and present day problems, it also exposes students to little known history.

For instance, one of our students today said they never knew that the 13th Amendment had a clause within it that still allows slavery to exist one is arrested. Students instantly made the connections between this clause and mass incarceration. This is so important, but many of our kids don’t know this and neither do many adults. This is an important history that everyone must learn and for as long as we can, we want to share this knowledge for all who tune in.

Virtual African American History Class occurs Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 11:00am to 11:50am. Any student (regardless of their school type) is allowed to attend after filling out the Consent Form


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