EAST NEW YORK, Brooklyn (WABC) -- WABC-TV is proud to celebrate Black History Month. We are commemorating the contributions of African Americans and highlighting how the Tri-State area is learning from the past to create a better future.
Comprehending, motivating, and inspiring!
A New York City school has planted a seed of learning that could grow across the state.
It's a one-of-a-kind lesson plan.
Elements of Black history can be found in every corner of East New York Middle School of Excellence.
"It's very important that our children understand their history did not start here in this hemisphere. They have a rich history that goes as far back as history itself," said Malik Small, Principal, East New York Middle School of Excellence.
That's why Dr. Small started this Africology class several years ago. The Black studies program is a requirement for all grades.
There is a renewed push to bring a similar curriculum to all public schools across the state.
Small sits on the New York State Commission on African American History. It aims to find and unlock hidden stories across the empire state.
Governor Kathy Hochul signed an executive order creating the commission last year.
"We have communities across the state, not just in Auburn, New York, the home of Harriet Tubman, but we have had significant presences across all parts of the state," said Robert J. Rodriguez, Secretary of State and Commission Chairperson. "So, it's important that we recognize and celebrate those community efforts and that we continue to allow those communities to explore this this rich history."
The commission plans to go on a "listening tour" across New York.
"Maybe some of those persons have lived in these communities for years, and know of contributions and know of people that we never heard of," said Hazel Dukes, NAACP New York State Conference, President.
Stories like how Mother AME Zion Church in Harlem was recognized as the oldest Black church in the state.
The commission will present its findings to the governor.
"It is supposed to be an actionable roadmap for how we recognize, celebrate, and change where needed the experiences of African Americans in the state," Rodriguez said. "As a Latino male, who identifies as, you know, a child of the African diaspora, being able to understand that did not come easily."
It's why officials say classes like Dr. Small's are key.
"We are learning about the Civil Rights movement," a student said.
There's so much more to uncover.
"Other people write our story and leave things out, that is so important. Now we are writing our story," Dukes said.
The New York State Commission on African American History will have its next meeting on February 9, from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Philipse Manor Hall in Yonkers.
You're invited to come out and share stories from your community.