Black Studies For NYC Public Schools | #teacher | #children | #kids

The Education Equity Action Plan (EEAP) Coalition, is a movement that will serve as a blueprint for adoption at public schools across the country which promises to be historic.

Michelle Patterson shared the moment when she realized that a comprehensive Black studies curriculum was needed for Black children to better understand the world around them and how to make their own history make sense and that was the essence of which EEAP grew onto.

Patterson could recall that same moment in the year 1999. It was Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday, and as an elementary school teacher, she was reading a storybook about the civil rights leader to a classroom filled with first-graders in Brooklyn, New York.

Patterson jumped on every opportunity there was to enlighten her students on Black History during their first year with hopes of planting knowledge of their heritage not only in their minds but in their souls. This time things take a turn: When Patterson came upon a part in the story where MLK shares his dream of little black boys and black girls joining hands with little white boys and white girls and walking together as sisters and brothers…” she looked up from her book to find a perfect picture of tiny black faces eagerly listening, the thought of crying clouded her mind.

“It hit me like a ton of bricks. I thought, Wait a minute; this is a lie,” said Patterson. “I’m talking about this like it’s history, but we’re still segregated.”  That moment marked the start of something great.

Michelle Patterson currently serves as a teacher’s advocate and lead advisor on disproportionality at the NYC Department of Education– alongside her brother, George Patterson who is the senior director of My Brothers Keeper Grant-Funded Programs for the NYC Department of Education. The Pattersons are part of a coalition of organizational leaders who are bringing a Black studies curriculum to all of New York City’s public schools through a movement called Black Edfluencers-United (BE-U).

Back in 2019, George Patterson wrote a letter on behalf of BE-U with current Schools Chancellor David Banks which draws attention to other educational leaders in the state, including Dr. Lester W. Young, Jr., Chancellor of the Board of Regents.

They were eager and determined to form a coalition at the city and state levels. But they needed more for this to happen and that ‘more’ needed was the key to the DOE door and more buy-in from the city. So they met with Adrienne Adams who, at the time, was the head of the Black Asian and Latino Caucus and now is the current Speaker of the City Council.

Adams agreed a Black studies curriculum was indeed essential.

In the year 2020, the world was struck by Covid 19. On the good side of it, all the pandemic gave way to an opportunity to focus and meet regularly over Zoom without interruption to discuss this great matter by pulling enlisting stakeholders in the arenas of policy, education, and non-profit organizations, forming committees around advocacy, policy, capacity, community, and most importantly culture.

Daneek Miller, City Councilmember endorsed this great plan as a key policy agenda item at the end of his term-limited year.

In September 2021, the New York City Council Black, Latino, and Asian Caucus donated their first funding with a sum of $10 million to execute the Education Equity Action Plan (EEAP) which focuses on a Black studies curriculum for K-12. Recently they were approved another $10 million

The EEAP was formed by the United Way of New York City (UWNYC), Eagle Academy Foundation (EAF), Black Edfluencers United (BE-U), Association of Black Educators of New York (ABENY), the Black Education Research Collective (BERC), and the City Council’s Black, Latino and Asian Caucus (BLAC) who worked together to develop an interdisciplinary Pre-K-12 Black Studies Curriculum that acknowledges the history and contributions of Black people, beginning before slavery and continuing through the present. The interdisciplinary Pre-K-12 Black Studies curriculum will demonstrate the contribution of ancient Black societies and civilizations and their impact on the modern world. The creation of the curriculum is accompanied by a stakeholder engagement approach that seeks to align support for the implementation of the curriculum throughout the Pre-K-12 public school system in NYC.

The Education Equity Action Plan is the first-ever Pre-K-12 Black Studies Curriculum to be implemented in the public school system. D

Dr. Blake, president of BE-U stated, “It’s groundbreaking because it represents operational unity and putting individual agendas aside.”

“We are developing the curriculum with pedagogues [who are] talking about solutions for our children– these are Black educators who come from the community and have shared the same trauma.”

The interdisciplinary Pre-K-12 Black Studies curriculum will showcase the contribution of ancient Black societies and civilizations and their impact on today’s world.

“Folks have been doing Black Studies since the beginning of time. We have educators and parents all over the city that have done this work and really stand on their shoulders,” said Nina Simone-Stovel, an EEAP leader and spokesperson. “I think our stakeholder engagement approach really is a true testament to how groundbreaking this will be.”

Simone-Stoval further explained that while we see other states turning away from Black studies, to see this investment by New York City is absolutely groundbreaking, because the curriculum is not just for Black students; it’s for all public school students.

And this revolution came at a  time when white parents in mostly white counties across the U.S. voted to ban books of black and brown narratives under a patently false and racist notion that is part of a “Critical Race Theory” curriculum.

George Patterson stated, “When you hold back someone’s history, it’s actually violence against that community.”

“The most significant thing you can do for a child is teaching them where they come from. If we’re not doing that and doing that with purpose, then you are not educating them in the right way.”


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