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Black Lives Matter rally to focus on racial inequity in schools

February 6, 2019 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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A movement to teach New York City school children the full scope of black history in America will take a giant step forward at an after-school rally at the Department of Education’s headquarters at the Tweed Building in lower Manhattan on Thursday.

Students, teachers and parents from dozens of Brooklyn schools are expected to take part in the Black Lives Matter for Schools rally outside the Tweed Building at 52 Chambers St. at 4 p.m. to present demands to Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza for the establishment of a black history curriculum, hiring more teachers of color, providing adequate funding for public schools and other changes to the school system.

The rally is part of the Third Annual Black Lives Matter for Schools Action Week (Feb. 4-9), a nationwide effort to bring fundamental changes to education.

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“We want to send the message that black lives matter and black students matter,” the Rev. Kevin McCall, of the National Action Network, told the Brooklyn Eagle on Wednesday.

Anthony Beckford, founder and president of Black Lives Matter Brooklyn, is slated to be one of the speakers at the rally.

His main focus, Beckford said, is to push for passage of a bill in the state Legislature to create a black history curriculum for students from kindergarten through 12th grade. “We need that black history bill passed. We also need more teachers of color in our schools. We need adequate funding for our schools,” he told the Eagle.

Nivea Soberanis, a student at M.S. 15, created a poster highlighting the accomplishments of black women in American history.

The state Senate passed the bill in 2018, but the legislation was tied up in the Assembly, according to Beckford.

There was a great deal of excitement in one Brooklyn school, Bedford-Stuyvesant’s M.S. 35, in anticipation of the Thursday rally.

On Tuesday, McCall led students, teachers and parents in a protest march from the school to Restoration Plaza on Fulton Street, where speakers demanded that the school system do more to serve the needs of the black community.

Black students comprise more than 25 percent of the New York City public school system, according to the Department of Education.

M.S. 35 Principal Jacklyn Charles-Marcus said the march was important to her students.

“With so many things happening in the society, we felt that it was necessary that in addition to the academic perspective of our school, to also educate the whole child and to instill in our students that sense of who I am. Our possibilities are important. So that when you value yourself you value the education that you receive,” Charles-Marcus told photographer Justin Hicks.

Kisha Sperling, a parent of a M.S. 35 student, carried a poster of Barack Obama.

“The students were so enthusiastic. They created their own T-shirts with their own messages. Some of them have lost family members to violence, and they just wanted to have their own expression, and that was displayed in their shirts,” Charles-Marcus said.

McCall said he was impressed with the students. “They decided to take it to the streets. It was a peaceful march. I was grateful to be a part of it,” he said.

The protest march was valuable to the students, McCall said, because it gave them the chance to make their voices heard and to realize that their opinions matter. “There is a lot of unfairness. We’re not going to be silent. We’re going to make noise about it,” he said.

Students should be learning about George Washington, but they should also be taught about the accomplishments of George Washington Carver, according to McCall.

Carver, an American scientist and inventor in the early 1900, used peanuts, sweet potatoes and soybeans to develop many of his products. He also advocated for agricultural education.

McCall said classrooms should be filled with talk about Dr. Gladys West, the black woman who was instrumental in the invention of GPS. West, who is now 87 years old, was recently inducted into the Air Force Space and Missile Pioneers Hall of Fame.

“If you are taught about the accomplishments of the people who came before you, it is impactful for years to come,” McCall told the Eagle.

The march and rally at Restoration Plaza instilled a sense of pride in students and parents, according to organizers.

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