By A.J. Harris
NORMAL – A rally hosted by the Normal West Black Student Union and the Next Gen Initiative was held last night at Martin Luther King Jr. Park in Normal to demand education reform in schools throughout McLean County.
Bloomington High School Math and English Special Education teacher Brandon Thornton said before any change can take place, however, it is important to first teach students about the events that took place over the summer.
“Before we teach the quadratic formula, or the periodic table, or Shakespeare, it’s so important that we create a space so all students can unpack the events of this summer.”
When speaking about what an expanded Black curriculum could mean for students, Thornton adds he can’t help but think about where he would be if school curricula included Black subjects beyond Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, and how it would shape the preceptions of his peers who expressed shock that he was one of the few black honors students.
Normal West Black Student Union President and founder Jasmyn Jordan also expressed the need for change beyond just expanding Black History to more than just February.
“We need schools to benefit all students by making them feel valued, welcomed, and safe,” Jordan said.
“Students cannot learn when they feel worthless, belittled, and endangered.”
Speaker Thurston Stevenson said that Black History should be American History, and taught as such.
“If our history is truly taught, then we wouldn’t be worried about erasing it,” he said.
Jordan also added that only learning one type of history forces students to think in a limited and uniform way; a way which is not inclusive and limits people of color from reaching higher.
The rally then took to the surrounding neighborhood, and as they marched and people honked their support from their cars or waved from their homes, the marchers would often stop to sing and dance, showing that their energy and resolve would not abate until change came to their schools.
A.J. Harris can be reached at [email protected]