- The Washington Times - Monday, January 28, 2002

A public school district in Oklahoma City has been accused of espousing black separatist doctrine because a copy of the "Black Pledge of Allegiance" is posted on its Web site.
The pledge which refers to the colors of the flag that represents the Black Liberation Movement appeared on the site last spring after students attending Millwood public schools found the pledge while studying black and cultural pride.
"We pledge allegiance of the red, black and green/Our flag, the symbol of our eternal struggle/and to the land we must obtain," begins the pledge, which appears on the Web site www.millwood.k12.ok.us/Students.htm, just beneath the pledge of allegiance to the American flag.
Millwood School Superintendent Gloria Griffin said in a telephone interview that she will not remove the pledge from the school district's Web site because it may send the wrong message to students.
"I don't think any African-American wants to be stripped and told, 'You shouldn't have any symbols,'" Mrs. Griffin said. "I don't think African-Americans should be asked to give up their symbols. Symbols are reminders of something that represent a custom and a part of history."
The pledge apparently originated in California, written by the founder of a violent 1960s radical group known as United Slaves.
Critics argue the Oklahoma school district's decision to add the pledge to its Web site creates division, rather than diversity, among its students.
"It's misguided and counterproductive to education," said Russell Adams, a professor and chairman of the Afro-American Studies Department at Howard University in Washington. "It does not accelerate a positive learning experience for African-American kids and other kids around them."
Others question the school district's motives for posting the pledge. Black students make up almost 99 percent of the school district's population, officials said. Millwood's three schools have 1,050 students.
"The question here is not about whether it's legal for the school district to post the pledge; it's more of a policy question at this point," said Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice, a public-interest law firm focusing on religious liberty.
Students do not recite the black pledge in school, the superintendent said, but they do recite the American pledge. Mrs. Griffin said she was disappointed when she learned students in two classes were reciting the black pledge. "That was not my intention, to have students recite this pledge in school," she said. "That is no longer happening."
Mrs. Griffin says she agrees with critics who say featuring the black pledge on the Web site is counterproductive to education, but she stands by the decision nonetheless. "This is just part of an outgrowth from studies the students had done, but it's not part of the written curriculum."
The pledge generally is attributed to Maulana Ron Karenga, former leader of the Marxist group United Slaves. The group gained notoriety on Jan. 17, 1969, when some of Mr. Karenga's followers fatally shot two members of the rival Black Panther Party on the campus of the University of California at Los Angeles.
Mr. Karenga, who later served time in prison for the 1970 torture of two female followers, is acknowledged as creating the Kwanzaa holiday, of which the black pledge is part, in 1966.
Mrs. Griffin said she never thought the pledge advocated separatism or promoted racism. "When I read it, I focus on the words 'united in love, freedom and determination,'" Mrs. Griffin said. "If you look at history, there is a great need for African-Americans to love. It is very important that we appreciate freedom. And it is very, very important to have self-determination, and I don't mean that in a sense of separatism."
Officials with the Oklahoma Board of Education declined to comment, saying they did not have authority over what the school district posted on its Web site.
Mrs. Griffin said she forgot the pledge was on the site until the day before Martin Luther King's birthday, when the school district began receiving angry e-mail from across the country.
"Other than being the target of misinformation, I don't know what to make of this," Mrs. Griffin said. "Something has been taken out of context. As a result, it really borders on slander."
The red, black and green flag often is associated with black nationalism and pan-Africanism.
The colors were adopted in 1920 by black nationalist Marcus Garvey as the banner of the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA), according to www.melanet.com, an Afrocentric Web site based in the District.
Melanet.com says the tri-colored flag "has become the symbol of devotion for African people in America to establish an independent African nation on the North American continent."
Mrs. Griffin said school administrators will add a paragraph next to the black pledge, explaining how the pledge appeared on the Web site. She also will conduct a survey of parents, teachers and students at Millwood to find out whether the community wants to keep the pledge on the site or remove it.

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