- Associated Press - Sunday, January 10, 2021

LAFAYETTE, La. (AP) - A Lafayette Parish School Board member wants to see a Black history curriculum in schools that goes beyond Martin Luther King Jr.‘s famous “I Had A Dream Speech” and Rosa Parks’ bus ride.

“That’s all we know about Black history,” Elroy Broussard said during the regular board meeting Wednesday night after reading a proclamation for Martin Luther King Jr. Day later this month.

“In reading this I ask myself, ‘How far have we moved the needle over the 50-plus years?’” said Broussard, a Black man. “Being a product of civil rights movement and a product of segregation times, we must ask ourselves if we are fulfilling that dream.”

Broussard, 68, represents part of north Lafayette, which is predominately Black, as are the schools in his district.

“We are not doing justice to my children and all 30-something-thousand (across LPSS), because history is important in everybody’s walk of life,” Broussard said.



He called for steps to be taken toward implementing a Black history program or curriculum in Lafayette Parish schools in the same vein as language immersion programs that are offered throughout the district.

“We can find a way to teach French, Spanish, Chinese,” Broussard said. “We live in Acadiana (and) know nothing about Black history. Black history needs to be taught in our schools.”

Schools usually celebrate February as Black History Month with assignments or programs, and some individual units might lend themselves to a focus on Black history. However, there is not a designated program like Broussard described.

He’s not the only one asking for it either. There have been similar pushes elsewhere in the state and country. In June activists in Shreveport collected more than 1,300 signatures on a petition to require Black history to be taught in Caddo Parish schools.

“Our goal is to demand justice for our communities and having the proper historical education in the right context is vital!” reads the petition description on Change.org. “Shreveport is 56.4% Black and the educational curriculum should represent history in a way that represents this reality.”

Broussard asked Lafayette school system officials to begin researching the process, cost and other details, and to make this a priority.

“I’m going to stay on this subject until we find a way,” he said.

Natalie Keefer, an assistant professor at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, said such a program is important for two reasons - representation and relevance.

“Students of color would find social studies (and education in general) more relevant to their lives and reflective of their experiences as members of our society if the curriculum was equitably inclusive of Black history, and the history of all people of color,” Keefer said in an email. “Considering Black students comprise close to 50% of the student population in Louisiana, a significant and accurate inclusion of Black history in Louisiana is clearly warranted.”

Teaching Black history in Louisiana schools could increase civic engagement and, in turn, decrease feelings of disenfranchisement among students and community members. This will require careful and accurate training for teachers, she added.

Broussard sees such a program as one way to bridge a divide and ease unrest in the community and across the country when it comes to race and racism.

“Given the unrest that has been going on, the division for the last couple of years, we’ve got to ask ourselves if we’re doing what we’re supposed to be doing,” Broussard said.

Making change requires discussion and communication. Even if discussing the issues of race and racism are “unsettling to some,” it’s necessary, he explained.

“It is taboo to speak of race and racism,” he said. “By saying that, we cannot solve the problem. The problem needs to be discussed.”

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