E. Faye Williams: Doing us and our history

Dr. E. Faye Williams

 (TriceEdneyWire.com)—Most people with a casual interest in educational matters or those only interested in education processes as they impact their children or grandchildren would not know or consider the wide variety of academic opportunities which supplement traditional learning.  Public and private school curricula will typically only include the subject matter of ‘general interest’ to the ‘general public.’  Any learning beyond that is usually a matter of individual interest and/or a conscientious desire to increase a personal base of knowledge.

Knowing how other ethnic groups and nationalities preserve and disseminate their individual group histories and cultural imperatives, I searched the Internet to ascertain their most contemporary methodologies.  I was not surprised that my search yielded a variety of available academies and learning opportunities.

I entered the term Hebrew School in my search engine which yielded numerous local offerings. A random selection from them provided:

      Congregation Agudas Achim infuses the values of Reconstructionist Judaism into all aspects of the Hebrew School. We place a high value on community as a source of strength and resilience in a challenging time. We aim to create a multi-generational community of Jewish learners, worshippers, and do-ers who share a desire to deepen our understanding of Jewish tradition and apply it creatively to serve the spiritual needs of our children and families, and to work collectively to build a world of justice and peace.

      “Doing Jewish” is fun!  Being Jewish is so much more than religious practice—it encompasses the rich heritage of Jewish culture from all over the world. We explore and celebrate many facets of Jewish life through games, art, music, dance, storytelling, and drama, making and sharing meals, and holiday festivities.

     Utilizing weekend instruction, the Jewish community actively works to counter the current resurgence of antisemitism.  I mention this because African Americans and people of color are searching for a remedy to the gradual-to-rapid elimination of our history from American schools.  This elimination is the result of historical truth unfavorably depicting some Whites as the cruel and inhumane creatures they were/are.  Whether the brutal continuum of enslavement from Africa to and in the New World, the Massacre at Wounded Knee and other acts of Manifest Destiny, the Passage of the Asian Exclusion Act or the recent theft and separation of thousands of Hispanic children from their families, the truth of this country’s inhumane treatment of people of color cannot be erased.

You ask, “What must we do?” The clear answer is that, like others, we must teach our own history and culture. We must establish the infrastructure and provide opportunities for our children to learn about US. We must spark inquisitiveness in our children about our ancestors whose strength brought us through the most brutal conditions imaginable. Looking in the mirror, our children must see themselves as part of a noble people whose contributions to humanity are incalculable and ongoing. They must realize they live because of the strength of our past and fulfill their responsibility to respect that past while laying the foundation for a more fruitful future.

As expressed by Carter G. Woodson, “Real education means to inspire people to live more abundantly, to learn to begin with life as they find it and make it better.”

Dr. Woodson also opined that “Philosophers have long conceded, however, that every man has two educators: ‘that which is given to him, and the other that which he gives himself. Of the two kinds, the latter is by far the more desirable. Indeed all that is most worthy in man he must work out and conquer for himself. (Women, too!) It is that which constitutes our real and best nourishment. What we are merely taught seldom nourishes the mind like that which we teach ourselves.”

(Dr. E. Faye Williams is President of The Dick Gregory Society (thedickgregorysociety.org; drefayewilliams@gmail.com) and President Emeritus of the National Congress of Black Women)



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