On one cool clear morning, standing on the sidewalk of Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., waiting for the Kingdom Parade to start, an NBC roving reporter was interviewing various onlookers. She approached a young boy of Afrikan decent around the age of 13 years, asking him before the television audience, “Do you know who Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was?” The boy, excited about being on television answered, “Wasn’t he a slave?”
Walking into a middle school library, where students of Afrikan descent were the majority, there were posters on the walls of significant individuals. One of the posters displayed Albert Einstein, with one word, “Genius.” Ordinarily, there would be nothing wrong with this poster, but in a school dominated by black students, there should have been another poster with Imhotep, the Kemetic (Egyptian) Afrikan, with the words, “The world’s first multi-genius.”
Middle school and high school students who take mathematics, algebra, geometry, calculus, chemistry, writing, history, and a host of other courses have absolutely no clue that these subjects started in ancient Afrika by their ancestors. In fact, the first educational institutions in the world began in ancient Afrika before other civilizations were established.
After years of teaching in the university system, it has become exceedingly clear that most of our young people have no idea about Afrikan world history beyond slavery and the Civil Rights Movement. They are still being taught that Columbus discovered America, the ancient Kamites (Egyptians) were white, and that Afrikans had no advanced or technological culture.
Young people spend an enormous amount of time on the computer, and are even teaching their parents and older relatives how the computer works, but have never been introduced to someone like Dr. Mark Dean, a man of Afrikan descent, who was one of the original architects of the personal computer.
The above simply illustrates how we live in a society that holds very little value for young people of Afrikan descent in knowing their ancient and modern history and culture. We know that such knowledge is empowering and has the potential of inspiring a young student to be more than average. Perhaps this is the motivation for preventing this knowledge from being taught. We all know that it was a crime to teach a slave how to read. Maybe it is an unwritten rule to inhibit students from knowing who they are and what their ancestors have created in the world.
One of the themes that came out of the cultural revolution of the 1960s,’we have to teach our children our history ourselves.’We cannot rely on the traditional school systems, all the way up to the university level, to adequately teach accurate Afrikan world history and culture. With this as a theme in the ’60s, various communities of Afrikan descent began Saturday schools, without the limitations and controls various school districts would impose. Some would label them alternative schools. Whatever they were called, they turned out to be a very effective vehicle for teaching history and culture.
Unfortunately, after the fervor of the 1960s faded, and naturals turned into Geri Curls, the Saturday schools began to fade. Some tried to maintain them, but were not motivated to continue. The Saturday school movement completely died out. If young people were not being educated at home about their history and culture, they were left to whatever the school systems would give them, and the miniature doses they would get during Black History Month.
Fortunately, for the past four years, there is a class that has filled the void of teaching Afrikan world history and culture on Saturday mornings during the summer. Black History 4 Young People has been teaching 12 – 18 year olds history and culture lessons school districts have avoided. It is impossible for a young person to attend these classes and not walk away knowing who they are and what their ancestors have accomplished in the world.
After years of teaching young people such information, it can serve as a motivational tool for students to work harder in school. When a student knows that their ancient and modern ancestors createdvarious sciences, arts and inventions, including the origin of hip hop, and are shown the evidence, there is no turning back. The one tangible outcome seen through the years, it does make a difference.
– Dr. Kwaku’s Saturday morning youth class begins June 14, 10 a.m. – Noon, at 4343 Leimert Blvd. (Kaos Studios). See www.drkwaku.com for details.