A new initiative by Friendship Missionary Baptist Church is part of a growing movement among over 200 predominantly Black churches in Florida to educate their congregations on Black history. They are taking this step due to concerns about the restricted and “watered-down” versions of Black history taught in schools under the state’s new policies.
A New Toolkit
These churches are utilizing a newly developed Black history toolkit created by Faith in Florida, a coalition of churches advocating for social justice causes.
This was created in July to counteract state efforts to regulate Black history lessons.
The toolkit comprises books, documentaries, and videos related to Black history, providing valuable resources for pastors and educators. Its goal is to ensure that Black history is taught in an unfiltered manner and to prevent its erasure.
Florida is among several states where conservative lawmakers have been pushing to restrict certain aspects of Black history education.
Historical Role of Black Churches:
Historically, Black churches have attempted to fill in the gap found in the public education surrounding their communities.
These churches are hoping to provide unfiltered Black history education and address the shortcomings of public institutions.
Governor Ron DeSantis has been a key figure in Florida’s efforts to regulate how certain topics, including race, are taught in schools and colleges. He has signed legislation that restricts the use of state funds for diversity and inclusion programs at public universities.
Desantis has also banned the College Board’s Advanced Placement African American Studies course.
On the issue, Pastor Johnson said, “I find it kind of disrespectful and even condescending to have our governor or anyone tell us what we’re allowed to learn…History is history.”
The Faith Leaders’ Approach:
Pastors like Rev. Gaston Smith and Tony F. Drayton are using the toolkit to guide their lesson plans, covering topics such as the trans-Atlantic slave trade and the Civil Rights Movement.
These Pastors want to ensure that Black history is taught comprehensively and accurately, even in the face of state restrictions.
These faith leaders view their churches as a vital platform for imparting this knowledge to their congregations.
While teaching Black history is a primary focus within their churches, these pastors also expand their reach through virtual services and other platforms to ensure that the wider community benefits from these lessons.
They believe that, despite state restrictions, they have a responsibility to educate their communities on their history.
The Toolkit’s Accessibility:
The Black History toolkit is designed to be accessible to all, regardless of prior knowledge. It covers topics chronologically and includes resources related to criminal justice and Black women’s leadership.
It is intended as a guide rather than a strict curriculum and will continue to be updated. Faith in Florida’s toolkit has even garnered interest beyond the state’s borders.
Faith leaders from predominantly white churches and other states, including Alabama, Georgia, and Virginia, have expressed interest in adopting similar educational tools.
In response to this issue, it seems that many people are siding with the churches and against Desantis, with one social media user commenting, “Teach true history. Period.”
Another user pointed out, “It’s increasingly harder and harder to find anybody willing to teach the TRUE history of anything, without their own self-serving slant in it.”
A third use put is simply and commented, “When someone tries to hide or water down history, they are trying to hide the cold hard nasty truth.”
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