Friday, September 18, 2020

Why Black Schoolchildren Must Be Exposed To Serious Black Writers.

January 16, 2020 by  
Filed under Education, News, Weekly Columns

( From the moment that my African-American Studies Literature Professor Dr. William Maurice Shipley uttered the question of

Don’t you have your own traditions and stories? Or will you simply rest on the creativity and imagination of Europeans?

I realized the unbridled power the piercing query held.

Not only was this question an inquiry that served as a call to arms for writers, musicians, and artists who would create the Harlem Renaissance but it also serves as a call to today’s Black writers.

As an African-American Studies Professor, I cannot tell you how disenchanting it is to encounter students whose extremely limited exposure to books can be traced to a haphazardly created reading list forced on them by some “teacher” who failed to include a single Black writer on their “reading list.” The vast majority of my students have never heard of the following writers.

  • Richard Wright
  • Toni Morrison
  • Walter Mosley
  • Alice Walker
  • James Baldwin
  • J. California Cooper

Obviously, my sadness solves nothing.

I will not spend my time addressing “school reading lists” devoid of Black writers as it is incapable of solving the unfortunate situation. I believe that better use of this space is the issuing of solutions to reverse the systematic erasure of Black writers from the developing minds of American schoolchildren.

The path to addressing this deplorable situation is a straight-forward one that hinges on parents and the larger Black community. Despite what many may think, the development of Black children is an endeavor that must include the entire community. It is this process that allows those that love Black children to put action to their hopes and dreams.

While addressing the plight of young Black males, noted educator Jawanza Kunjufu posited that “What you do the most you will do the best.” In many ways, Kunjufu’s observation refutes the familiar refrain that there is something intrinsically wrong with the minds of Black children while illuminating a path to academic success.

If one extrapolates Kunjufu’s assertion, it becomes easy to understand why professional sports leagues such as the NBA and NFL are predominantly Black. The sports arena is where they have spent the majority of their time and therefore “do the best.” Although many bemoan the concentration of Blacks in the sports and entertainment industries, such criticism blocks the silver-lining that it definitively proves that Black excellence is possible despite the long odds of success in sports and entertainment. The conquering of such odds speaks volumes about Black excellence.

When one considers the plethora of interests of Black children, we must busy ourselves creating avenues of success grounded on a rich history of Black excellence. There is no more assured path to such goals than the inundating of Black schoolchildren with Black writers who have illuminated both a glorious past and pointed the way toward an unbelievable future. It is imperative that every Black parent develops a reading list of Black literature for their children and actively participates in the reading process. I can attest to the fact that such is the path to having children who are lifetime readers possessing copious amounts of intellectual curiosity.

If nothing else, the inundating of Black schoolchildren with Black writers will save educators such as myself from moments where we wonder if we are making any progress in this uphill battle to change the world via education.

Columnist; Dr. James Thomas Jones III

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