The standard curriculum in most American public schools is heavily centered around the historic and contemporary contributions of white men. When contributions of minorities and black people, in particular, are even included, the lessons are often relegated to secondary, if not subservient narratives. Combine this indoctrination with the everyday reality of racism that black children internalize everyday and the subtle message of inferiority is planted by the time they reach their preteen years.
Fed up with this phenomenon, Detroit teacher Kufere Laing decided to do something about it. In an interview with Atlanta Black Star, Laing said, “At no point in time are Black students given the opportunity to think about why and how do we exist in this world.”
To create a solution to this hurdle, the social studies teacher to seventh and eighth graders at Voyager Academy, launched a fundraising campaign raising over $1700 to provide students with books centered around black culture. Included in this syllabus are The Autobiography of Malcolm X as told to Alex Haley, Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, The Skin I’m In and You Don’t Even Know Me Stories and Poems About Boys by Sharon G. Flake, Monster and Slam! by Walter Dean Myers and A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn.
Laing’s teaching style and his understanding of the need for a more robust curriculum for his 25 students is driven, in part, by his own coming of age experiences.
“I’m in a lot of different African-American communities…I can communicate with my students in a common language. And it’s not just the words that I’m using, but it’s also the rhythm that Black people speak in. Even my mannerisms are influenced by these Black experiences,” he stated.
“Often times, the information put in front of Black students isn’t at all relatable,” he said. “With pre-teens, it’s important to have a lot of work around identity. Who you are in this world, how can we make sense of your experience?”.
This Pittsburgh native of the historically black Hill District and member of Omega Psi Phi, is helping his students to come to terms with those questions and providing yet another example of why more black teachers are needed in the classroom.

Read the full interview here.

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