Each Black History Month, the Rutland Area Branch of the NAACP receives complaints, complete with verifiable documentation and evidence, that demonstrate curricular violence against Black, Brown, Indigenous and other people of color (BBIPOC) who are students in Vermont schools. The Vermont educational system has caused and is causing harm to BBIPOC students. The reason that I became active in our educational system is because of the harm done to my own children and the lasting damage to our family due to the trauma we experienced in the Vermont educational system.
We at the NAACP are going to support you not only in mitigating the harm caused to our BBIPOC students here in Vermont, but also in creating vibrant and insightful curricula for all students, for Black History Month 2021 and beyond – in fact, far beyond. Black history must be taught in the context of American history, not as an isolated subject consigned to a single month during the school year. It is what we all need to learn in order to be informed and educated members of our society; it is the heritage of every American, an integral component of the American story.
We urge you to use these materials and resources to teach Black history as a core component of the American experience, and to work with your colleagues not only on the history of Black Americans, but on understanding and teaching about the influence and importance of Black leaders, teachers, scientists and artists in all disciplines and academic domains. Almost all of us were deprived of learning the whole of the American story in our early learning experiences – an error we mustn’t repeat for our own students. All students deserve to have themselves and their heritage affirmed and valued rather than marginalized or flatly ignored.
Classroom discussions involving race and other topics of marginalization can be difficult. At worst, lack of care in framing and facilitating discussions can be traumatizing and damaging to students. As a part of this packet, we have prepared a number of infographics to guide this teaching as well as a resource specifically geared to support the structuring and implementation of critical conversations.
Please create opportunities for yourselves as well, for individual as well as group reflection and self-study. For us to teach these topics well, we must spend time on our own learning to counter our own misconceptions.
We are including James Baldwin’s seminal 1963 “A Talk To Teachers” which is as relevant today as it was 60 years ago. It is a powerful place for educators to begin self-study. As with the materials we recently released on teaching and talking about the Capitol insurgence, we look forward to continuing to support you in creating authentic curricula that speaks to the needs of all of your students. The attached materials have been compiled from a wide range of organizations and sources by our Education Committee, chaired by Julie Conason, and our History Committee, chaired by Alana Harte. We trust that these materials will be helpful to you.
If you have questions or would like further support, please feel free to contact Julie at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mia Schultz, President, Rutland Area Branch, NAACP