ESSEX, Conn. (WTNH) — Families in Ivoryton have formed a coalition to bring more African American studies to their local school curriculum.
“We have a biracial child and we need to discuss things more with her because she needs to be aware,” explains Kristen Alexander.
After the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd, the Alexander family wanted to join protests but the pandemic kept them home. They realized there are other ways to make change for racial inequality.
“It’s all going to come down to education and knowing what’s right and wrong,” she says.
The Alexanders helped form the Connecticut Coalition for Educational Justice and a Culturally Responsive Curriculum, along with another Ivoryton family, the Poulards.
“We just want representation for everyone, equality for everyone,” explains Nikki Poulard.
They sent a letter – accompanied by 366 signatures from local residents – to the Superintendent of the Region 4 School District with requests, including, “Make African American Studies a graduation requirement for high schoolers.” They also had a virtual meeting with Superintendent Brian White in July.
“I didn’t know that I didn’t know so many things and I don’t want that for them; we don’t want that for them,” says Poulard.
“We just want our children to grow-up actually knowing their history, their real history, especially with Black and people of color,” adds her husband, J.P.
The kids got involved, too. The Poulards made signs and 11-year-old Abi Alexander wrote her own passionate letter to the Superintendent, sharing her experience in elementary school, stating: “…we did not learn much about…Black people…they should be talked about too and not just during Black History Month.”
“Together, we are stronger, all voices,” says J.P.
The families say the recommendations have been well-received and that the school district has agreed to future changes.
And, Abi offered some book suggestions which will be added to classroom shelves.
“It’s definitely taught her to have the courage to speak up for what she believes in,” says Alexander. “You can do it respectfully but don’t let someone silence your voice and silence what you know to be true in your heart.”
This is just the beginning. The coalition plans to reach out to other school districts to make changes to curriculum here in the state and even across the country.
A call to Region 4’s office was not returned today.