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Marking Black History Month with a celebration of Connecticut's Black and Latino Studies course

Governor Ned Lamont, Connecticut Education Commissioner Charlene M. Russell-Tucker, teachers, students, and advocates hold a press conference in Bloomfield to kick off Black History Month by highlighting a newly enacted state law that requires all high schools in Connecticut to offer courses on African American, Black, Puerto Rican, and Latino studies.
Tyler Russell
Connecticut Public
Alana Lilley, an 11th grader at CREC Academy of International Studies, steps back from the podium after speaking about the importance of the POC focused history course she is taking during a news conference in Bloomfield to kick off Black History Month by highlighting a newly enacted state law that requires all high schools in Connecticut to offer courses on African American, Black, Puerto Rican, and Latino studies.

Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont says Florida’s governor is “dead wrong” for rejecting an African American studies advanced placement course.

Florida recently rejected AP African American Studies, a course Gov. Ron DeSantis likened to a “political agenda.”

“We are much better off as a state in the country when we have a better understanding of our full history and each and every one of our students can see that their background is a big piece of our American history,” Lamont said Tuesday at a news conference held inside CREC’s Academy of International Studies in Bloomfield, a school that offers students a course on Black and Latino studies.

Alanna Lilley, a 16-year-old junior at the academy, takes Black and Latino Studies. She told reporters visiting her school that she’s experiencing something kids her age in Florida may not.

“Being in this class and being able to have an opportunity like this I think really helps Black and Latino students see another side of their education, because I think a lot of them were taught about how we were put down, but we were never taught of how we helped ourselves resist and progress in America,” Lilley said.

Lilley’s classmate Tirth Barochia, 16, also highlighted advantages Connecticut students can have in history class over their peers in Florida.

“In other history classes, some things might be skipped over because they want to avoid it. Because it’s the truth,” said Barochia. “But now in this course, the truth is being revealed about Latino and African American cultures and their achievements, so it’s great to learn about it.”

Lilley and Barochia spoke at a celebration of full implementation of the Black and Latino studies curriculum that state officials held at the academy on the eve of Black History Month.

Lamont’s administration says Connecticut is among the first states to require that local high schools provide curriculum dedicated to including contributions made by Black and Latinx people in U.S. history. The mandate is part of legislation Lamont signed into law in 2019.

Some districts may not offer Black and Latino Studies, according to the state Department of Education, because not enough students enrolled in the course. But the department says that 175 local school districts have introduced the course to students since a mandate took effect last fall.

“More inclusive, culturally relevant content in classrooms leads to greater student engagement and better outcomes for all of our students,” state Education Commissioner Charlene Russell-Tucker said Tuesday.

The course is offered as an elective. Lamont said he hopes all Connecticut students will soon have to take it as a graduation requirement.

The students who do take it are required to learn about people of color and their impact on America for the entire academic year.

“In the words of Booker T. Washington: ‘Success always leaves footprints.’ So with this course, I assure you that we are laying down footprints,” Russell-Tucker said.

Corrected: January 31, 2023 at 5:08 PM EST
Frankie Graziano is the host of The Wheelhouse, focusing on how local and national politics impact the people of Connecticut.
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