Here in Rhode Island, the history of our distinguished people, the places, and the times they lived should not be presented because of an obligatory month on a calendar but as an integrated and comprehensive learning experience. History is the collective memory of a people. Without it, we lose not only our shared memory of our culture, but we risk, as famously quoted by philosopher George Santayana, “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” African heritage and history in Rhode Island are deep and rich.
Last summer, we all were reminded how Black Lives Matter; today, we recognize that Black History also matters. And through the work of the Rhode Island Black Heritage Society, along with a generous grant from Walmart Foundation, Rhode Island is on the verge of advancing the inclusion of Black History in all K-12 public schools that is not only historic for Rhode Island but hopefully a model for all public schools across America.
State Representative Anastasia Williams and Senator Tiara Mack have submitted legislation to incorporate African heritage and history education in all Rhode Island elementary and secondary schools to begin in the 2022 school year. This effort will recognize Rhode Island as one of the nation’s first states to provide a comprehensive African heritage and history curriculum for K-12 public schools. Our state elected leaders in the General Assembly need to hear your voices and support for this effort.
Rhode Island has the opportunity to lead the state and nation on how we tell the inclusive history of all Americans through learning and education. Let us commit to teaching our children about all Rhode Island citizens’ accomplishments, especially those whose contributions were ignored far too long. Perhaps in doing so, future generations will only read about racial inequality and discrimination in history rather than experiencing it themselves.
Theresa Guzman Stokes
Rhode Island Black Heritage Society