The youth perspective on Black History Month

Samantha Boring
Created: February 19, 2021 07:15 AM

(ABC 6 NEWS) - It's Black History Month, a time where we recognize African Americans for their role in U.S. History. 
 
Fifth-grade students at IJ Holton Intermediate School in Austin are working on biographies to recognize Black heroes. 

"Americans who have fought the injustices that were happening long ago, and also up until the current black population that is fighting injustices today," said 5th-grade social studies teacher, Kaia Kossman. 

She said the social studies teachers at IJ Holton wanted to change some of their lesson plans to help students better understand Black history instead of only discussing slavery. 

Kossman said, "That was always taught in isolation, and now within these last few years and especially this year we are working toward balancing that with the heroes that we see that have made sacrifices."
 
In Rochester, the NAACP has been hosting a series of discussions for Black History Month. 

This Saturday, they are hearing from youth in the community. 

"I think that as two black women, well I think we can offer a lot in this instance. The experiences that we have gone through match that of a lot of other people," said Christine Kassiano, who is a Senior at Mayo High School. 

These two students speaking at the series, Kassiano and Junior at Mayo High School, Yasmin Ali are both bringing their perspective not only to this virtual presentation but also are working to make their voice heard in the community. 
 
Kassiano and Ali are both apart of the non-profit, the Rochester Community Initiative

This group is entirely youth-led and is focused on improving the community through amplifying youth voice, intersectional advocacy, community education, and serving underprivileged demographics. 

After a year of historic moments in 2020, they hope to help shape the future. 

"Taking what has happened in 2020 and what we have experienced as a community and as like a nation at large and how youth plays into what comes next and how we can continue to move forward," said Ali. 
 
In the classroom, students are learning about past and present history. 

Kossman said, "I tell the students we have to learn both because we need to know what's happened, where we've come from, and where we are going." 

And within the community, Kassiano said she's heard from teachers showing their support for her, she added, "Understanding that I have community support and there are people there that are there for me and want to see me succeed. It can be very hard like I guess walking through everyday life and really just kind of feeling like the world is against you, so being able to have those open conversations and providing spaces where conversations are being moderated."
 
These students are hopeful teachers can think outside of the box not only in February but year-round. 

Ali said, "For teachers, the best thing to do during this month is really not shy away from injecting it into the classroom and encouraging conversation about it, and not only encouraging conversation but then going on to sort of don't be afraid to connect it back to your teaching, it can be connected to everything and anything."
 
Kassiano and Ali can be heard at the virtual presentation, The Transformative Nature of 2020 | The Youth Perspective at 10 a.m. on Saturday. 
 
Kossman said the student's biographies will be put on display for other students at IJ Holton to learn about how much of an impact Black Americans have made.


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