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Black History Class Defies Death



Black History Class Defies Death and Makes History of Its Own

(Pictured: Tatyanna Brown, 12th grader(left) with her teacher, Marilyn Golden(right) interviewing current City Commissioner Chris Jones(center) at local library.)

On the 15 year anniversary of a local uprising that garnered national attention, a state of emergency and riot gear, a Benton Harbor High School Black History class will host the first school viewing of the Race2Equity Traveling Exhibit: What Happened to Benton Harbor?

The Resurrection

Just a year ago, Mrs. Marilyn Golden’s Black History Class fell victim to state cuts. Although the school consists of approximately 93% black students, the only black history class in the school closed last year. With persistent outcry from a former student and parents at a townhall meeting, the school board urged the superintendent to reinstate the class for the 2017-2018 school year. Although the year has not advanced without funding challenges, the teacher teamed up with the Peace4Life Youth Ambassador Organization and the Michigan Roundtable of Diversity and Inclusion Statewide Race2Equity Coalition to provide meaningful experiences for her students. First, she worked with the Coalition to plan a trip for her students to Detroit, MI for a field trip to the Charles H. Wright African American History Museum. “Most of us have never been to this museum before,” declared Thomel Green, a 12th grade high school student/co-founder of the Peace4Life Youth Ambassador Organization. Next, Mrs. Golden developed a project to give her students a closer look at black history unique to Benton Harbor.

(Pictured: Former Superintendent Dr. Shelly Walker at 2017 emergency community town hall meeting)

The Project

With this project, Mrs. Golden’s historians will become the tour guides. The Race2Equity Statewide Coalition worked with Atty. Elizabeth McCree, a local attorney and historian, to identify pivotal moments of enduring racial tensions and laws that are believed to have lasting implications. It is believed by the Race2Equity Benton Harbor Hub that these issues which are similar to the nationwide redlining epidemic continue to inflict community progress to date. The students researched the text from the exhibits and have interviewed the residents who lived through those moments.

The students will be expected to identify patterns of racial inequities as well as solutions that may help break the cycles from the past. “This is the most important project in your high school careers!” Mrs. Golden shared with her students as she explained the requirements.

(Pictured: Two members of the National Guard on patrol in Benton Harbor, Mich. in response to the 2003 State of Emergency)

Zaniyah Henderson, a 12th grader, discussed her overall feelings about the project in an interview. “This project helped me to see more than what happened at the end. It helped me to learn about all the incidents that led up to the events and that is why it is important to me.” Zaniyah is scheduled to present about the student uprisings of the 1970’s at Benton Harbor High School.

The groups are expected to present their findings at 9am-11am on Wednesday, May 9th and Wednesday, May 16th, 2018 at the Performing Arts Center before a segment of the student body.

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