Ohio’s Black Athletes: 10 Years in the Making

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When I first started working with children nearly 40 years ago, focusing on sports was inconceivable. My attitude was that we focused too much on sports and too little on math, reading and writing. I felt we needed to focus on the “essentials” and African culture. Reading, writing and arithmetic are still important, as tools to understanding the world. African culture is still important, but not to the point where we overlook what we’ve done right here, in our neighborhoods. Art, athletics and aesthetics are also important, not just for the elite, but for everyone. For it is through these seemingly unimportant activities that we learn about the world, our place in it and learn to love life, in all its facets.

Ohio’s Black Athletes is a multimedia project that has been in the making for 10 years now. We’re just starting to hit our stride, after updating our original materials, repackaging, revising and testing everything we’ve created, over the last ten years. We’re finally ready to present these materials to the public as a “finished product.”

Forty years ago I scoured the country looking for curriculum materials that were truly relevant to our children. The best I could come up with were products that met 1-2 criteria, but inevitably fell short. Over the years we created some tools that could be used in the classroom, but they still were not comprehensive in scope or impact.

In 2006 I was asked to return to Ohio to work as a curriculum specialist for the Ida B. Wells Community Academy, Akron’s 1st African centered charter school. For the second time in my life I ended up as the principal/CEO of an educational organization, within 2 months of my arrival here. This was not my intent and it hurt the school in a number of ways, because it meant I was unable to focus on creating a comprehensive curriculum. Most of my days and nights were tied up dealing with bureaucratic necessities, school discipline and board meetings.

It wasn’t until the demise of the school a year later that I was free to focus on what really mattered, a comprehensive curriculum designed for local youth. Ohio’s Black Athletes is not the completion of this project. It’s the first step in creating a curriculum that is relevant, engaging and inspirational for young people everywhere, but particularly in NE Ohio.

Blakfacts curriculum materials go far beyond what most people think of as African centered curricula. The Blakfacts curriculum is the first of its kind, a truly comprehensive, Pan-African curriculum that covers every topic imaginable, with biographies of notable individuals, organizations and movements throughout history. Our introductory materials focus on math, sports and Pan-African history for children with little to no ability to read. As they progress through the materials and become more familiar with the written word, they are introduced to the movers and shakers of the Pan-African world, basic scientific concepts and important ideas that have shaped the world and our view of it.

As we are inundated with daily new stories of scandals, racism and violence it’s important for the youth to know there’s more than one way of looking at the world. Being able to understand someone else’s point of view will be critical in the years to come, as the world becomes more and more polarized and the views of the minority become those of the majority. We hope to see Blakfacts curricula play a role in making the world a better place for everyone.

 

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