What Black History and Education Mean to Me

By Dr. Jessie O. Kirksey, principal at Hartman Elementary

Growing up in my beloved “5th Street Neighborhood” in Kansas City, Kansas, set the tone of a lifetime of commitment, resolution and hunger for learning. The support and expectations of my family, community, and church led me to become an outstanding scholar and graduate of the world-renowned Sumner High School, Kansas City, Kansas.

Besides my Mom and Dad, I had many people in my village that were responsible for my desire to become the best educator that I could be. These outstanding individuals included Siporia Miller-Anderson, Principal of Dunbar Elementary School, Rozella Caldwell-Swisher, Geography Professor, Northeast Junior High School, LeRoy Pitts, Science Professor, Northeast Junior High School, and Sumner High School, Nellie Pitts, Biology Professor, Sumner High School, Rebecca Bloodworth, English Professor, Sumner High School, Clarence Turpin, Geometry Professor, Sumner High School, Dr. Bertram Caruthers, Sr., Educator and Dr. Edward Beasley, History Professor, Sumner High School.

Our scholars of today must know the truth about American History, from more than one perspective. Both HIS-story and HER-story are equally important. The truth is that there is no single story; America’s history is the combined lived experiences of all Americans. Scholars’ values are shaped by feeling responsibility for honoring their ancestors, maintaining a sense of pride in their ancestors’ accomplishments, and carrying that pride forward in their own lives as they contribute to their families, local community, and the nation.

Black History is particularly important because of the global slave trade that continues to have a negative psychological impact on many African American people in the United States. Overcoming this psychological impact requires knowledge of the struggles, strategies, and accomplishments of Black people during slavery, Jim Crow, segregation, and oppression. Our challenge as Educators, today, is to ensure that our scholars are able to identify with the strength, determination, and accomplishments of their ancestors.

In doing so, we must teach our scholars that black history is taught and learned through many lenses. Uncovering multiple stories generates an inclusive picture of the past – multiple stories, many voices – an America that validates all of us … an America that allows us to move forward in our efforts to achieve the American Dream of freedom, justice, and opportunity, for us all.

I am most hopeful, as a Kansas City Public Schools Educator, that we provide high-quality education and opportunities, for all scholars, their families, and their communities. This is true, no matter their zip code, socioeconomic status, race, religion, culture, or color of their skin, so that our scholars will have the skills needed to become productive American citizens.

My inspirations, on a daily basis, are my scholars who enter our school building, eager to learn and to find, “…but, a better way”, to achieve their goals and dreams. Our scholars are happy individuals who come through our doors, trusting us day after day, as they give us hope for the future. Our former scholars come to share their accomplishments, which is a great source of pride. Our scholars are our future and I am excited to continue to provide for them education of the finest quality.

Above all, I am an Educator of, and for, ALL children. My experiences as a Black Female American have shaped me and helped to equip me with expertise, sensitivity, insights, and courage. Those tools enable me to provide the necessary knowledge, skills, and judgment for our scholars and their families that I have had the privilege to serve in the past, those of today, and those who will come tomorrow.

Post Topics: Kansas City, Schools

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