Many Afrocentric schools start at kindergarten.
Many New York Parents Opt for Afrocentric Schools Instead of More Integrated Institutions
If one walked the campus of a few Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), that person might hear the same story over and over again.
A middle or upper middle class African-American student grew up in a predominantly White neighborhood, went to predominantly White schools and never experienced African-American culture being celebrated and praised.
As a matter of fact, many African-American students in predominantly White schools experienced racism throughout their matriculation, both subtle and overt.
Those students often saw attending an HBCU as a refuge from bigotry and racism and a place where they could just be themselves and not a skin color.
Now, many African-American parents in New York want their children to attend a school in which Afrocentric pride is celebrated on a daily basis.
Many of those parents want their children to have a strong sense of self while still getting a good education.
“Some of our young men didn’t really know who they were,” said Rashad Meade, the principal of Eagle Academy for Young Men II in Brownsville, N.Y.
Eagle Academy, a public school, has the specific purpose of educating boys of color.
Meade wanted his young boys to have a strong sense of identity before they leave to compete in predominantly White colleges and/or in the predominantly White workforce.
The school created classes on identity, revised the African-American geared curriculum and added books by African-American and Hispanic authors.
In Meade’s office, he has a sign with a slash through the N-word.
Jordan Pierre recently finished reading a biography on Nation of Islam minister Malcolm X for one of his classes and it resonated with him and his experiences as a young African-American male.
Pierre said he finally had book assignments “that speak on our struggles as young men in a society where standing up for ourselves can be seen as a revolutionary act.”
At Ember Charter School in Brooklyn, N.Y., elementary age kids start their day by stating, “I love myself! I love my hair! I love my skin!”
On their way from the auditorium to their classrooms, students pass by pictures of African-American icons like Colin Kaepernick, Harriet Tubman and many others.
New York Times reported, “Afrocentric schools have been championed by Black educators who had traumatic experiences with integration as far back as the 1960s and by young Black families who say they recently experienced coded racism and marginalization in integrated schools. Both groups have been disappointed by decades of efforts to address inequities in America’s largest school system.”
Many African-American parents in New York have joined support groups like Parenting While Black, based in Brooklyn, N.Y., to discuss the best approaches to educating young African-American children.
“Some of us are pro-integration, some of us are anti- and others are ambivalent,” said Lurie Daniel Favors, a member of Parenting While Black. “Even if integrated education worked perfectly—and our society has spent the past 60-pus years trying—it’s still not giving Black children the kind of education necessary to create the solutions our communities need.”
Although children of any race can apply and attend Afrocentric schools, the institutions remain overwhelmingly African-American.
However, Ember, a school that goes from kindergarten to eighth grade, has a student body that is one-third Hispanic.
Spanish is incorporated into Ember’s morning affirmations.
There are about six Afrocentric schools throughout the city of New York, comprised of about 2,300 students.
Students have to apply for admission into these private and charter schools.
Additionally, the schools do not have a specific geographical zone.
Despite the popularity of Afrocentric schools, the concept does have its detractors who favor integrated schools.
“Segregation leads to inequality, said Andre Perry of Brookings Institution. “You just can’t do that away. If you’re going to ignore this issue, it will come back to haunt you.”
Historically, school integration has led to a redistribution of funds, which can often boost academic performance for children regardless of race and socioeconomic status.
Furthermore, some studies say that some Afrocentric schools are low performing.
Nevertheless, Afrocentric schools remain popular in Milwaukee, Chicago and the country’s most populous city, New York City.
Some parents have decided to home school their children to ensure African-American history and culture is taught to their satisfaction.
Afrocentric schools have also caught on in Washington, D.C. and Oakland, Calif.
Schools like Ember have even sent their students to South Africa for six weeks while also offering services that help students deal with mental health issues.
Proponents of Afrocentric schools believe that their approach and curriculum is also very beneficial to students who are not African-American because it exposes them to more diversity and other cultures.
“Often when you talk about integration, it’s about taking Black kids out of their schools and sending them to White schools,” said Richard A. Carranza, New York City’s schools chancellor. “Rarely is it about, ‘How do you have other kids come into traditionally Black schools and find value?’ If there’s a school that says that’s what we want to focus on, I think we should be supportive of that.”
Many White and other non-Black students on the college level have said that they have benefitted from attending an HBCU because they got exposed to diversity and racial issues that they would not have if they had gone to a predominantly White institution.
“To be White at a Black institution is to understand racial pain,” said Julianne Malveaux, president of the all-female Bennett College from 2007-2012. “If a White girl goes to Bennett, she doesn’t have to go to diversity training when she gets into the corporate world. It’s an enhancing experience, especially for a student who wants to live and work in a diverse world.”
However, for some African-American parents, diversity will be commonplace for their children growing up as a minority in America.
Therefore, those parents want to shield their children from the harsh realities of racism and give them a strong sense of identity as they mature into adults by sending them to Afrocentric schools.