I am known to some by the work I do around #EducationJustice and working with #BlackYouth. For the last two years, I have been working on a campaign to promote culturally relevant curriculum and culturally responsive schools. We developed a toolkit, got books added to the curriculum in local public schools, and have a culturally relevant curriculum webinar series with some heavy hitters. But as I have a “sankofa-moment”, I want to take a look back at history to review how I got to where I am today.
A few years prior to starting that campaign, at the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, at the 18th anniversary of the million man march, I witnessed a speech and banner that would change my spiritual life. Due to my mis-education in the American education system (as Dr. Carter G. Woodson would put it) I was not aware of the works and identities of some of our greatest ancestors (here in America and abroad), but on that day I got a thorough introduction to my ancestors….. which was an elevation for me in my thinking and actions!
Just a few years later, who would have guessed that I would advocate for and win mandatory reading of ‘Up From Slavery’ by Booker T. Washington (the illustrious founder of Tuskegee Institute) in Dayton public schools.
This was also around that time that I met Dr. Umar Ifatunde (Johnson) in person and discussed some theological disagreements (involving our ancestors). My wife brought him to Dayton to speak.
To put an end to this “sankofa-moment”, I will share a great quote from the speech I heard that day by Ishmael Muhammad, that really changed the trajectory of my life….
“The little humble city of Tuskegee has given us as a people, America and the world so much to be grateful for,” Mr. Muhammad said.
Booker T. Washington, Tuskegee University’s first leader, was known for his emphasis on thrift and self-reliance, economic development, land acquisition, respect for others, proper education and civilized behavior.
“We must revisit the principles that Tuskegee University was founded upon and ingrain those principles into our very beings for our future is at stake,” said Mr. Muhammad. “This man is not fully appreciated by those who struggle to see our people free.”
He showed parallels between the “immutable principles” outlined by Booker T. Washington and the teachings of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad as represented by Minister Farrakhan.
The Black community is in need of guidance and the greatest gift after life is the gift of divine guidance, said Ishmael Muhammad.
What is now needed is a synthesis of all the great ideas of leaders such as Ida B. Wells, Malcolm X, Rosa Parks, W.E.B. DuBois, Paul Robeson, Sojourner Truth, Marcus Mosiah Garvey, Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, Fannie Lou Hamer, Noble Drew Ali, and Martin Luther King Jr., he declared.
“All of these great men and women are hardly mentioned in the history books,” said Mr. Muhammad. These are all pieces to a puzzle, “and that puzzle is called Black Liberation!”
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“Education is a Human right, We will not give up the fight!”