Commission selects two KCPS schools to tell 'a new history' of the African American experience

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African-Centered Prep and Hartman Elementary to host launch events on Nov. 4

Students and staff at African-Centered College Preparatory Academy and John T. Hartman Elementary School are ready to begin their new duties of educating the public about the complex, 400-year history of African Americans in North America.

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African-Centered Prep and Hartman Elementary were recently selected to be among just 400 schools in the nation to serve as Institutional Ambassadors for the National Park Service’s 400 Years of African American History Commission. The commission was established last year to mark the 1620 arrival of the first enslaved Africans to Port Comfort in what was then the English colony of Virginia.

“Kansas City played – and continues to play – a very pivotal role in the history and culture of African Americans and the story of race, diversity and equity in this nation. I’m extremely excited to see how the students and staff at African-Centered Prep and Hartman Elementary help share that important narrative with our community,” Kansas City Public Schools Superintendent Mark Bedell said. “This is another good example of how we are providing unique learning experiences for our children in KCPS.”

Both schools will be hosting events to celebrate this distinction and begin their participation on Monday, Nov. 4. Hartman Elementary’s launch will start at 10 a.m. at 8111 Oak St. in Kansas City, Mo; it will feature a presentation by Edward Honesty, proprietor of Kansas City’s Best Harvest Bakeries. African-Centered Prep’s event will include its own special guest and will begin at 2 p.m. at 6410 Swope Parkway in Kansas City, Mo. Members of the news media are invited and encouraged to attend.

As part of their Institutional Ambassador responsibilities, each school has selected a theme to focus on during special activities, trips and presentations throughout the academic year. These themes are designed to spark community conversations about the history and future of African Americans.

The theme at African-Centered Prep will be, “Breaking Barriers,” according to Principal Claire Thornton-Poke. This could include discussions about African American pioneers like Blanche Kelso Bruce (the first African American to serve a full term in the U.S. Senate), Ida B. Wells (an investigative journalist) or Mary Church Terrell (an activist in the suffrage movement).

Students at Hartman Elementary School chose the theme, “Stand Up to Keep A Seat,” according to Principal Jessie Kirksey. They will focus on African Americans who fought for decades to gain access to an equal and equitable education. This will include having students correspond with the civil rights activist Ruby Bridges and going on a field trip to Topeka, Kan. to study the Brown v. Board case.

“We will be showing our boys and girls that they have the power in their hands to make a difference, so they need to decide what they are going to stand for,” Dr. Kirksey said. “Our job is to empower our students, and that’s why I’m so excited about this initiative.”

Ray Weikal, Kansas City Public Schools

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