BLM Club petitions for Race & Ethnic Studies course


Dezia Worrell-Wright

Students at BLM Club’s first celebration “In Your Element,” which was held Friday, Feb. 23.

Naomi Thomas, Arts and Clubs Editor

The Black Lives Matter Club has created a petition to the Student Governance Council to implement Race and Ethnic Studies as an official course. After analyzing social studies classes provided, this social justice club gathered that history courses provided at DHS are “taught primarily from a Euro-American perspective,” as stated in their petition

There is nearly a 58-percent minority student enrollment at DHS, according to US News & World report in the 2014-2015 school year. This data influenced the club to create a petition “because students of color deserve an education that is relevant, meaningful and affirming of their identities,” said Julian Shafer, social studies teacher and BLM Club adviser.

“I’m a firm believer of history repeating itself. Due to our political climate, it’s more important now than ever for students to learn not only from the mistakes of others but to be inspired,” said club member and senior Jasmine Gotch.

Race and Ethnic studies typically incorporate coursework in genocide, slavery, conquest, confinement, immigration, and the diaspora of all people. This course would be set to highlight: Africa Past and Present, African American Studies, Latino/a Studies, Asian American Studies, and Native American Studies.

Shafer explained, “Several studies done by the National Education Association have shown that students of color tend to disengage from the academic process when it doesn’t in any way reflect their experience or backgrounds.”

Higher academic achievement, student engagement and personal empowerment for students of color are what motivates this call to action.

Shafer said that he wants “students to be the ones who determine [how the course will be implemented]. I think it’s important that students of color have a say in the education that they get. Really all students in general, especially when it comes to race and ethnic studies, I think students of color should be the leaders in determining what’s taught.”

Senior club member Kanalla Hay expressed her dismay with the current social studies courses and curriculum. “We don’t have a curriculum that’s centered on the experiences of students of color,” she said.

Hay continued: “We hear the same names every year and are told the same stories every Black History Month, but I want more for my education as well as for my school and my peers.”

“There were more people in the world who had an impact on the history of American but the melanin in their skin caused people to disregard their hard work,” Hay added. 

Students seem to be interested in the idea of this new course. Senior David Mollenthiel said, “It’s important to learn about our history and the past so we can correct it and make sure we don’t recreate that in the future.”

Sophomore Kaylee Siguenza said, “It would make people more open-minded and more understanding of others cultures and backgrounds, and not have ignorant questions.”

Bridgeport Public Schools is set to make race and ethnic studies a graduation requirement for next year. Club members said they hope that the neighboring city’s decision will then influence Danbury Public Schools.

“There might be a little trouble, but I believe it is worth the trouble to ensure the maximized education of culture and America beyond the Euro-American perspective,” Shafer said.