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Black History and Education

African American news from Pasadena - editorial on Black History month and educationAfter all is said and done, Black History Month is an opportunity to emphasize the importance of education for, by, and of Black people, worldwide. It is not just about African Americans. It is about Black folks across the world and the Diaspora, if you please. Why Educate is a question that is addressed in a 2009 book by Mike Rose entitled, "WHY SCHOOL". It is also a question addressed by African Americans, ever since they arrived on the shores of the so-called United States of America. The reasons addressed by Rose and writers from the Black Diaspora are different. That should come as no surprise. Rose says education's primary purpose is to secure a place in the economy, whereas writers from the Black Diaspora also feel, in addition to the economic reason, education as also a method of passing on our culture and our traditions.

The question of how we educate is another serious question. Blacks were denied schools in America for a few hundred years, and then there was the separate (and unequal) version of that. Some would say we are still getting that version. So as to how we educate, I agree that we are getting educated in school, and the Black Press is an integral part of that education. The Black Press tells the story like no other source can or has told our story. Howard University professor, Clint Wilson, in his book, "THE HISTORY OF THE BLACK PRESS", makes it clear that the Black Press has played a seminal role in recording American history.

Further, the Black Press had a role in interpreting that history for a predominantly Black audience, as it serves as Black America's voice. It was the Black Press that told of a better place and better times in places like Detroit and Chicago for former slaves, following slavery. This education gave rise to the greatest inter-American migration (or escape) in American history to avoid the Caste system of the American south. That story is again being told in Isabel Wilkerson's new book, "THE WARMTH OF OTHER SUNS". Wilkerson says that this mass relocation dwarfed the California Gold Rush of the 1850's and the Dust Bowl, moving Blacks from Arkansas and Oklahoma. Note: my parents and my father's family (the Hopkins') and my mother's family (the Shaw's) were part of the group that left Oklahoma joining the great migration to Bakersfield, California.

Mike Rose addresses Why School, as a professor in the UCLA graduate School of Education. Wilkerson's book addresses why educate for a people looking for freedom. Rose indicates that education and work are intimately connected and that one (schooling) is the primary justification for preparing for the other (work). The question is why schooling for Blacks and is there another justification for schooling for Blacks since skills for work can be learned by experience and non school education like apprenticeships, and generational and legacy training such as where a mother teaches a daughter to sew, cook and keep house by teaching and having her watch the things she does.

The father of Black History, Carter G. Woodson, might say the reason for schooling or teaching Black History might simply be to fill in the missing pages of history - a history which white history writers have so conveniently eliminated and/or ignored.

As a note, it is important to use the phrase, Black History, to avoid the trap of believing that Black History begins with slavery in America. It is important to use so-called United States because racists like Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, and other corporate media types are waiving the banner of segregation and white superiority, daily sponsored by white corporate America.

Rose also states that we educate for a number of reasons that include to "pass on the traditions and knowledge to prepare the young for democratic life, to foster moral and intellectual growth, and to enable individual and societal prosperity."

Today the why educate must join the two why's to make a better world for Black America. To that end, two local elected officials from our community deserve credit for their focus on improving educational opportunities for Black students. In February, 2011, Congressman Adam Schiff journeyed to the Historical Black Colleges and Universities at Atlanta University and visited Spelman, Morehouse, Clark, and the Interdenominational Theological Center (ITC), and recently Assemblyman Anthony Portantino initiated Assembly Concurrent Resolution 21 which creates a partnership between the University of California and the Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Portantino gives credit to The Journal and this writer and publisher for planting the seed that resulted in this Resolution. This is an example of the Black Press and the Legislature working together.

The Journal applauds both these legislators for acknowledging the importance of Education in their communities. We can celebrate the past Black History all we want but we must continue to make history that makes sense for improving the generations to come.

As a caveat, we need to watch, pray and work to see to it that the forces of conservatism, that are busy trying to figure out how to shut down public education, fail. The Republican/Tea Partiers are openly talking about shutting the doors of public education. I believe this bold, open talk is about turning back the clock and making sure that Black America returns to a source of low wage workers as a permanent underclass and never again produce a Black President.

Our job is to fight the conservative segregation machine, fight to keep the option of public schools available while building more independent schools, and create more businesses to support the schools. We also need to support the Black Press to guarantee that we have an independent voice in matters of Black progress.