On Sunday, February 20, 2022 at 1pm, members of several organizations, along with community members, came together on the steps of the Georgia State Capitol for a "Rally for A Black Education Agenda." The Beacon Hill Black Alliance for Human Rights, K16 Teach Truth, Gwinnett Educators for Equity and Justice and the United Campus Workers of Georgia were the co-sponsors of Sunday's Rally. Community leaders from the NAACP, Reformative Action National Task Force and Councilman Mark Baker of the city of South Fulton also stood in solidarity. Parents of school-aged children also showed up in great numbers to speak out against what they call "classroom censorship." Others blatantly call it the "whitewashing" of history and current events.
What exactly, is a "Black Education Agenda?" This is the deliberate teaching of truth in history, particularly as it pertains to the contribution of indigenous and enslaved Black Americans to the building of this country. This includes, but is not limited to the proper teaching of: the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade and the history of slavery in the United States; African Societies before slavery and colonialism; the Civil War and Reconstruction; the Harlem Renaissance; the Civil Rights Movement and current historical events that shape the daily lives of American Citizens. All of the aforementioned topics have been taught in school for decades; so why is this an issue at this point in time? The answer lies within the language of FIVE bills that are currently up for consideration in the Georgia Legislature: House Bills 888 and 1084 and Senate Bills 369, 375 and 377.
House Bill 888 is summarized as "A BILL to be entitled an Act to amend Title 20 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated, relating to education, so as to add new statutes and amend various existing statutes to include provisions regarding the treatment of race and other individual traits and beliefs in public education in this state; to prohibit state agencies, local boards of education, or public elementary or secondary school administrators, teachers, or other personnel from compelling any individual to affirm, adopt, adhere to, profess, or promote concepts in violation of certain federal and state anti-discrimination laws; to prohibit the inclusion of certain concepts in courses offered in public elementary and secondary schools of this state; to provide for the promotion and protection of the intellectual freedom of students, faculty, and other personnel at public postsecondary educational institutions in this state; to provide for related matters; to repeal conflicting laws; and for other purposes." (https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/61099) This bill is aimed at directing what and how students are taught, while House Bill 1084 is aimed at training and professional development, related to the same.
The summary of House Bill 1084 reads: " A BILL to be entitled an Act to amend Title 20 of the O.C.G.A., relating to education, so as to prevent the use of and reliance upon curricula or training programs which act upon, promote, or encourage certain concepts, with exceptions; to provide for related matters; to repeal conflicting laws; and for other purposes." (https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/61477) Senate Bill 369 is an attempt to make the Gwinnett Board of Education election nonpartisan; and seen by many as a "power grab" by the Georgia GOP, who enjoy a super-majority in the state General Assembly (https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/61287). Senate Bills 375 and 377 are akin to House Bill 1084. Whereas, Senate Bill 375 calls for the provisions of House Bill 1084 to be applied to all local government and educational entities (https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/61344), Senate Bill 377 calls for the same to be applied to state government and the University System of Georgia and Board of Regents (https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/61345).
This current trend in legislation got its roots back in June 2021, when the Georgia Board of Education adopted a resolution asserting that "classroom discussions on race, systemic racism, inequality and controversial events that are a part of Critical Race Theory (CRT) should be avoided." The Georgia Board of Education followed the lead of other State Boards of Education, in issuing the resolution as [what many pundits think is] a response to the popularity of the Pulitzer Prize- Winning 1619 Project by Nikole Hannah-Jones (https://nyti.ms/37JLWkZ), which documents the arrival of the first enslaved Africans in the United States and the contributions of African Americans to the building and continued success of the nation. Mark Baker, Councilman for the City of South Fulton, spoke regarding the proposed "Anti-CRT" bills, and also touted the resolution that he sponsored, opposing the promulgation of legislation such as HB 888. The resolution, which was adopted by the City of South Fulton on October 26, 2021,takes a staunch position in favor of telling the "complete truth" of America's History and reads in part:
"WHEREAS, on June 6, 2021, the Georgia Board of Education ("Board") adopted a resolution asserting that Georgia and the United States itself are not racist, and that classroom discussions on race, systemic racism, inequality, and controversial events that are part of Critical Race Theory ("CRT") should be avoided; and
WHEREAS, the Board's decision is symbolic of the historic misinformation, denial and mischaracterization regarding the plight and experience of black Americans in the United States; and
WHEREAS, any accomplishments and achievements of the United States is inescapably intertwined with the historical inhumanity and injustices of slavery and the subsequent treatment of black Americans in this country; and..." The resolution goes on to express the sentiment that the City of South Fulton fully endorses facing racialized policies head-on in the teaching of American History. Read the full resolution here: (https://www.cityofsouthfultonga.gov/AgendaCenter/ViewFile/Agenda/_10262021-1093)
Community leaders and activists also made their voices heard at the rally. "This is about our future, as some Legislators attempt to silence our history. We will continue to show up and speak out on the issues that affect our families and children, particularly as it relates to the quality of public education," said Porch'se "Queen" Miller, Founder of the Reformative Action National Task Force (RANTF). Also in attendance, were: Activist Kimberly Latrice Jones; Civil Rights Attorney, Gerald A. Griggs; Educator and host of Teacher Talk Live, Alfred "Shivy" Brooks and members of various parent groups.
To find out more about the legislation mentioned in this article, and any bills proposed in the Georgia General Assembly, visit https://www.legis.ga.gov/.
Reported by Keyanna Jones