Black Iowa parent: Teaching history without Black culture is 'reminder of how systemic racism continues' its cycle

Black Iowans discuss the importance of Black History and voting rights during Black History Month, which kicks off Feb. 1.

In honor of Black History Month, Black Iowa News asked Black Iowans to share their feelings about the importance of Black History and voting rights — in their own words. Here’s the first installment from Johnston parent, Lya Williams. *Submissions have been lightly edited for clarity. Look for a new installment daily. (Want to share your views? (Learn how below).

Lya Williams

I feel it is important to teach an accurate account of history. I believe it begins at home and is then reinforced in schools. History has been so watered down to make it more palatable to hear because who wants to be remembered for causing Emmett Till’s death, inspiring “Strange Fruit” by Billie Holiday, or the Tulsa Oklahoma Black Massacre?

By not teaching about history — with an emphasis on Black culture — it is a reminder of how systemic racism continues to be cycled in our communities.

Black history is important because we are often only taught about key people like Martin Luther King Jr., Harriett Tubman and Rosa Parks. However, Black history is more than civil rights, slavery and redlining. We have a hand in the origins of civilization beginning with the Egyptian pyramids. Black History helps to mirror — not just to BIPOC but to society — that we have a rich ancestral history worthy to be proud of. We are the only demographic whose ethnicity has changed each generation: Moors, colored, negro, Black and now African American. Without Black History, how do we make connection to a past that was wiped out by being brought to work for free, after undergoing the slave trade and having a 100-year wage gap?

History is how we learn to move forward by not repeating past mistakes. It reminds us that we are great no matter how we get represented in media, but that we have contributed to what made America.

For me, Black history solidifies that Blacks have value beyond our skin color and emphasizes our humanity when others dehumanize us. When the Declaration of Independence was signed, BIack people were considered only three-fifths of a person. We cannot learn if we don’t correct the mistakes made in the past.

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