BLOOMFIELD, Conn. — Inside the walls of the CREC Ana Grace Academy for the Arts in Bloomfield, the lessons around Black history take on many lives.
In Lance Kamau James’ music classroom, the focus is on African drumming and world drumming. Upstairs, in Dylan Friedman’s visual arts room, the lessons are just as hands-on and a little more colorful.
"We had a week, Black History Week, that's when everything was infused, and now we have a month, but it's no longer a month, it's every day now,” James said.
At the magnet school, Black history is American history. Through music and art, students at Ana Grace bring to life the stories that are rarely told in history classrooms.
"We infuse Black History into some of our lessons. This time around, we actually had Mr. Kamau who told us about the Amistad Project and we did a little research on a famous Black ship captain and so we looked up William Shorey is his name, he was born in 1859, and we thought he was interesting,” Friedman said. “He was a whaler. He had the first all-Black whaler crew in the Caribbean. It was really neat, we liked him and we painted him."
Kristen Velez, a student, said each lesson teaches them that “everyone is equal here” and about what happened in the past and the fight that is still going on.
The mission at the school is shared at the state level. Public Act 19-12 made Connecticut the first state in the nation to require all high schools to offer an elective course on African American, Black, Puerto Rican and Latino studies. Schools must offer the courses starting next school year.
“We're studying things, I can tell you I've heard 25 kids personally say some variety is amazing we've never learned this before,” said Stephen Armstrong, social studies consultant at the State Department of Education. “In the first semester, they're talking about African Kingdoms that they never knew even existed."
She continued: "That to me is the fascinating thing. Kids have had US history but this specific approach and angle to US history, it is very new for kids and quite honestly teachers."
They are ensuring the beat goes on every day.
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