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Beginning Steps for Ensuring Black Students feel a Since of Belonging

Beginning Steps for Ensuring Black Students feel a Since of Belonging

Our previous blog post provided a little background and context to the root of some of the challenges Black students face in the American education system. This post will provide anecdotal examples and specific steps for how to help your Black students feel a sense of belonging in school environments.

My first year of teaching was at a private school of a white church with a 98% Black student body. I quickly became uncomfortable by and dissatisfied with that dynamic. Now school leadership was made up of a both Black and white administration- however the structure was very much anglo-American and euro-centric in nature. From the paddling of Black students by the white principal who had the antiquated title of "Head Master"; which was so obviously in appropriate given the demographic. To the student handbook which stated hairstyles such as "braids, dreads, haircuts with designs etc..." were not allowed. Or students receiving lunch detention for talking with their hands (you know using hand gestures to add emphasis or I'm not entirely sure what it does, but it is a very common and acceptable practice in the Black community that students were being punished for).To the dean of students who brought an afro pick to school and took it upon himself to undo the style of the boys hair because he deemed it "unprofessional". It should be noted that this dean of students was a Black man- however we know that all skinfolk ain't kinfolk. This dean is an excellent example of how (majority Black) demographic of a school or district doesn't necessarily equal inclusivity or belonging for Black students. It didn't take long for me to realize that I had to go into Black Pride overdrive for my students. I was going to make sure that these Black children whose lives I touched every single day had at least one place on campus that was intentionally designed to support them. I would affirm everything from their beautiful skin tones to their natural hairstyles- by my third year at the school, almost every girl with permed hair that came through my class had done a big chop and was now proudly wearing their natural hair! The next school year I made sure to include Black iconography and figures in my classroom design (pictured below). I introduced our Ancient Egypt unit with the Remember the Time video- to establish Ancient Egypt as a Black African society before their textbook showed them a historically inaccurate non-Black Pharaoh. Yes, I know that later dynasties were headed by Pharaohs with non-Black ancestry however the Pharaoh pictured was one from an early Egyptian dynasty. Furthermore given that (as previously stated) Black history especially in schools is generally relegated to suffering and struggle, it is absolutely crucial that Black students are given the opportunity to marvel at and revel in the mastery and success of Black African Egypt. 

I incorporated Self-Love Lessons every chance I got. Some lessons planned, some were

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