With 10.2 percent unemployment nationally and even higher rates for African-Americans, particularly youth, we can not afford to allow our students to leave grade school unprepared to compete.
During my presentation to the San Francisco Alliance of Black School Educators, I described an infusion policy, based on research about effective instruction for learners of African descent and the California curriculum frameworks and content standards.
Here is a draft of that policy:
POLICY STATEMENT ON THE INFUSION OF AFRICAN-AMERICAN EXPERIENCE IN SAN FRANCISCO AND CALIFORNIA THROUGHOUT DAILY CLASSROOM ENVIRONMENT IN LITERATURE, MULTIMEDIA AND COMMUNITY (“THE LEIDESDORFF INITIATIVE”)
Whereas the San Francisco Unified School District wishes to provide a complete educational experience to all of its students, including a balanced, non-stereotypical curriculum;
Whereas the State of California has specifically provided for the emphasis on underrepresented groups in curriculum, culture and art in the Education Code;
Whereas the Education Code provides that all California schools recognize March 5 as Black American Day in honor of the death of Crispus Attucks in the Boston Massacre;
Whereas the California Department of Education annually recognizes the anniversary of Brown vs. Board of Education as a seminal event in education history with specific coursework;
Whereas, A.B. 33 in 1988 provided that the superintendent of public instruction provide all schools with a list of recognized materials for African-American heritage
Whereas, the California content standards specifically identify significant African-American personalities to be studied as examples for educators;
Whereas, the first school committee chair of San Francisco was an African-American entrepreneur, William Alexander Leidesdorff, in 1848, whose life punctures many stereotypes of African-American history;
Whereas the achievement gap between African-American students and other groups is a major concern for San Francisco and many other school districts
Whereas, San Francisco has lost more than 7,000 African-American students in the past sixyears, depriving the district of vitally needed diversity;
Whereas, the late UC-Berkeley researcher John Ogbu, among others, found in a longitudinal study that the absence of positive role models negatively affects student behavior and performance;
Whereas, initiatives in such cities as Los Angeles, San Diego and Hayward have positively affected student outcomes with the infusion of African-American content throughout the curriculum;
Whereas, individual educators who have participated in the Teaching American History program for the past two years have found that the heritage of San Francisco’s African-American population has been a particularly effective educational tool, particularly with hard-to-reach children;
Whereas, many dedicated educators spend their own time and resources to search for culturally-relevant information to match their student populations and participate in organizations and training to advance that knowledge;
Whereas, the significant African-American historic and cultural sites create a demand for workers who are skilled in the knowledge of the African-American heritage of this city
Therefore, it shall be the policy of the San Francisco Unified School District to infuse the significant contributions of African-Americans within San Francisco and California throughout the k-12 educational curriculum in a coordinated, coherent way as a matter of accuracy, justice, efficiency and educational efficacy.
We find this infusion so important that the following guidelines should be followed in each school in the district:
TEACHER AWARENESS. Fourth-grade teachers of Caliifornia history should receive training on the primary sources of the black experience in San Francisco, including
–the 36 African-Americans from San Francisco listed among the 150 Most Historic Black Californians
–the significant role of the three 150-year-old black churches in San Francisco –Third Baptist, Bethel A.M.E. and First A.M.E. Zion in the abolition movement of the 1850s and the fight for civil rights in California that overturned the right of testimony and franchise laws in the 1860s
–the location and significance of two dozen African-American historic sites in the downtown financial district dating back to the 1840s
–the 29 state parks with historic sites on the black experience
–the allegorical epic Las Serges de Esplandian which led to Hernan de Cortes naming California
–important public artwork including the Room of the Dons murals by Maynard Dixon and Frank von Sloun, the Sargent Johnson murals at the National Maritime Museum and George Washington High School; the Dr. Howard Thurman sculpture; the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Waterfall by Houston Conwill; the Dewey Crumpler mural at 762 Fulton St.; the Ella Hill Hutch Center murals; the Gene Suttle Plaza; the Fillmore Street sidewalk legends and Mildred Howard’s Blue sculpture atop Geary Boulevard; Aaron Douglas painting at the DeYoung Museum;
–the heritage of entrepreneurial success beginning with pre-Emancipation millionaires William A. Leidesdorff and Mary Ellen Pleasant to the current accomplishments of executives such as Genentech COO Myrtle Potter, SBC West CEO Chuck Smith, Victor MacFarlane of MacFarlane Partners; civil engineer Frederick E. Jordan and current businesses such as restaurants
–the scientific and engineering exploits of Richard B. Spikes, inventor of the electric boom for streetcars and the automatic gearshift; Dr. Nathaniel Burbridge, a pharmacologist and Dr. Arthur Coleman, one of the first lawyer/physicians to astronauts Drs. Mae Jemison and Yvonne Cagle
–the impact on entertainment of black performers in San Francisco theatres in the 19th century such as the Hyers Sisters, leading up to the ragtime success of Bert Williams, George Walker and Sissiretta Jones; the origin of the first jazz club in the world at 550 Pacific Ave. in San Francisco and musicians who played there in the Sid leProtti So Diff’rent Orchestra
–significant literature written in San Francisco ranging from the first cookbook by a black chef by Abby Fisher in 1881, The Autobiography of Malcolm X and Roots by Alex Haley; The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman by Ernest Gaines
–the impact of black labor leaders due to the decision by Harry Bridges to integrate the ILWU in the 1930s
–the political impact of leaders such as Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett, a candidate for governor in 1966 and newspaper publisher; through Mayor Willie L. Brown Jr. and current lawmakers and public executives
–primary source resources and educational experiences from:
• San Francisco African-American Historical and Cultural Society
• Museum of the African Diaspora
• African-American Center of the San Francisco Main Library
• San Francisco Room of the San Francisco Main Library
• Bayview/Waden Branch Library of the San Francisco Public Library
• Western Addition Branch Library of the San Francisco Public Library
• California Historical Society Library
• Performing Arts Library and Museum
• Bancroft Collection, UC-Berkeley
• Sutro Library of the California State Library
–the multilingual experience of peoples of African descent, including the early Spanish-speaking pobladores and conquistadors on Mission Dolores, the Presidio and Yerba Buena and the interrelationships between Africa and Europe; Africans in Latin America and the Caribbean; Africans in Asia and the Pacific Islands
–how to train other members of their staffs in the application of this material.
–why locally-specific historical information improves the learning experience for students
–and in creative and effective ways to incorporate this information throughout various subjects throughout the years on a daily basis, not only in history/social science, but also in mathematics, foreign language and physical and biological sciences
When possible, this training should also be made available to social science faculty at all levels.
CURRICULUM MATERIALS. Each school library and fourth grade classroom should be equipped with sufficient reference materials to provide a 500-year perspective of primary source materials on the black experience in California, including books, lesson plans, documentaries, maps and online resources.
COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT. Schools are encouraged to observe March 5 with school wide demonstrations of student mastery in knowledge of San Francisco and California African-American history, including oral history and genealogical accounts of family heritage, and to select the most creative, most thoroughly-researched entries for competition in a district-wide judging to be announced on April 3, the anniversary of the dedication of the first public school. Students are also encouraged to present materials in different languages in the same manner as the quotations on the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. Community, business and civic engagement in this process, including donations of prizes and scholarships., is encouraged.
BUDGET. A sum of $400,000 (FOUR HUNDRED THOUSAND DOLLARS) is appropriated from funds allocated to comply with the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to fund the costs of training and purchase of books and other curriculum materials. Administration is authorized to seek other funding sources such as grants, gifts or sponsorships.
DESIGNATION. This policy and the implementation thereof shall be known as the Leidesdorff Initiative in honor of Capt. William A. Leidesdorff, 1810-1848, chairman of the school committee that dedicated the first public school in San Francisco and California on April 3, 1848. In addition, his values of mathematics proficiency, nautical expertise, fluency in multiple languages and business success are all attributes which are still desirable in our graduates.
EVALUATION. The research department shall note the extent to which there is progress in the state examinations for students whose teachers have completed training and implemented the initiative; and the impact on school attendance and/or dropout rates at the secondary level and report back to the Curriculum Committee in May
CONCLUSION. we find that repairing the psychological damage of discrimination is still a critical and vital role for the San Francisco Unified School District to play for its students and affirm our commitment to comply with and promote the integration of all students into constructive roles at every level of society by inspiring them as students.
APPROVED THIS __________________ DAY OF ,