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Pols, activists to rally for mandated black history lessons

Every New York school student should learn about Malcolm X and other black history figures in mandatory African-Americans studies, a group of elected officials and school advocates is demanding.

The massive push for a bill that’ll require black studies in all state schools follows several troubling incidents in which educators have been told not to teach about the Harlem Renaissance — and people in black face were used on a PTA advertisement for a 1920s-themed fundraiser.

A rally, set for Wednesday at the Dr. Betty Shabazz School on Watkins St. in Brownsville, Brooklyn, will call on state legislators to require black history studies in every school and at all grade levels.

“In the climate we are in, we need this bill like never before,” said Rev. Kevin McCall of the National Action Network, who’s leading the charge with state Sen. Jesse Hamilton (D-Brooklyn) and Assemblywoman Diana Richardson (D-Brooklyn).

Queens student can’t have name Malcolm X on senior sweater

Also in attendance will be Christ the King High School student Malcolm Xavier Combs, who made headlines after an assistant principal at his school rejected a request to print his first name and middle initial on a school sweater.

During the same week, Mercedes Liriano, an English Language Arts teacher at MS 224 in the Bronx was told by Principal Patricia Catania not to teach her students about the Harlem Renaissance and abolitionist and statesman Frederick Douglass.

The week ended with a PTA president of PS 118 The Maurice Sendak Community School in Brooklyn apologizing for using an image of people in black face to advertise a 1920s-themed fundraiser.

The legislation’s goal is to amend the Amistad Commission — introduced in 2005 to review state curriculum regarding the slave trade — to include not only prominent African-Americans but other groups that contributed to U.S. history.

“We must build an education system that embraces the inescapable truth that tomorrow’s America will be even more diverse, will call for even more understanding, and will require us to be better versed in the American stories of our African-American, Afro-Caribbean, Afro-Latino, and African diaspora brothers and sisters,” said Hamilton.

Jacob Morris, director of the city’s Freedom Trail, is also behind the legislation, and is demanding a “functioning” Amistad Commission.

“The Black History bill will create change and confidence in our youth by providing role models outside of sports and entertainment. I commend Senator Hamilton and Assemblywoman Richardson,” said McCall.

Request for comment from the Department of Education was not immediately received.  

With Ben Chapman

black history month
kevin mccall
diana richardson
new york public schools

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