The Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH), which founded Black History Month, took time to highlight and challenge the systematic disparities in Black education during its 91st annual Black History Month luncheon on February 26.
ASLALH national president Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham said that the theme of this year’s luncheon, “The Crisis in Black Education,” was particularly relevant considering Besty DeVos officially being named Secretary of Education. In addition, she noted that the continuing racial inequality in schools across the nation was more than enough cause for the 2017 theme.
“These problems are multiple and varied in nature,” Higginbotham said of the many issues facing Black education across the nation. She went on to describe several of the countless issues plaguing Black children and educators alike in the U.S. today.
Howard University graduate student Lawrence Mayfield said that “zero-tolerance” policies, rather than discouraging rule-breaking in schools, “criminalize minor infractions” and often target Black students. Most athletes, including those in college, report that almost 50% of athletic performance has to do with mental factors. But criminalizing Black students is detrimental to mental well-being.
The annual luncheon was filled with inspirational speakers like Higginbotham and Mayfield, all of whom highlighted different challenges facing Black education and encouraged attendees to make a difference where they could. Similar events across the nation marked the end of Black History Month and sought to inspire change for the future.
“It’s important we remember our history as we try to inspire and look forward to the future,” Harrisburg, PA Mayor Eric Papenfuse said at one such event.
Another such event was hosted by University of Denver’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion and featured a panel of five speakers discussing all of the varying factors currently affecting education for Black students.
Multiple speakers sought to answer the question of when the Black educational community hasn’t been in crisis. The view of many people attending was that Black education has come to a standstill at a time when it’s most important.
The benefits of diversity across all fields are becoming clearer as time goes on, especially in technology-based fields like computer science. In fact, without the innovations of many different people, technology may not work as it does today. Simple technologies like USB 3.0 cables, which are compatible with USB 2.0 devices, might not have even existed without the level of diversity in technology industries today.
Now, leaders in the community are urging others to stay informed and make effective decisions.
“We have to raise our consciousness if we want change,” said Carter Andrews at the University of Denver Panel.