Photo by Daniel Harden
Imagine a tale of two worlds - one etched in the annals of history, where chains bound bodies, and freedom was stolen, and the other a contemporary landscape where the descendants of those shackled still navigate barriers erected by the ghosts of the past. The bridge between these worlds is none other than the haunting remnants of slavery. Yet, the Governor of Florida, Ron Desantis, and the Florida Board of Education had the audacity to approve a curriculum to mandate educators to teach middle school students that slavery "benefited" black people by teaching them useful skills.
First and foremost, Africans were stolen and kidnapped from Africa, a land that was thriving with kingdoms, royal resources, and a plethora of skills. As much as white America would love to perpetuate that black history began with slavery, that is far from the truth. The harsh reality is they're afraid to face the uncomfortable truth. The history of slavery is a dark stain on humanity, marked by the deplorable exploitation of millions of individuals based on their race. The despicable attempt to use schools to promote the rhetoric that slavery benefited black people in certain ways is appalling, fundamentally flawed, and rooted in historical misinterpretations.
Historical accounts and primary sources from the period of slavery provide ample evidence of the atrocities committed against enslaved Africans. The transatlantic slave trade records, narratives of escaped slaves like Frederick Douglass, and writings of abolitionists reveal the abhorrent practices and the complete disregard for the well-being of enslaved black people. Despite the intergenerational trauma, economic exploitation, historical discrimination, socioeconomic disparities, limited access to education and healthcare, we have found ways to overcome the oppressions that are still lingering today. Our ancestors used intelligence and survival skills that were learned in Africa to overthrow colonizers. To the point where enslaved Africans who were brought to Haiti defeated Napoleon Bonaparte and his French army, who were arguably the most powerful army in the world. It sent a shock wave across the globe because the Europeans crafted a system that was supposed to control and destroy Africans. The notion that slavery benefited black people is a fallacy.
Slavery's brutal history has left a gangrene gash on black people that extends beyond its formal abolition. Instead of addressing the infectious wound, so-called leaders would rather stick their oppressive dirty fingers in it. Until this country is ready to roll up its sleeves and properly deal with these deep-rooted issues, it is crucial for us as black people to work towards dismantling systemic racism. It starts with educating our children before, during, and after they walk the halls of schools.
It is with an unwavering determination that I pen this book, The Education Formula—Maximizing the Village, fueled by a deep-rooted belief that education is the cornerstone of progress, equality, and human flourishing. I write because I refuse to let our children's dreams be compromised, their potential limited, or their futures dictated by circumstances beyond their control. Through the pages of this book, I aim to shed light on the pressing issues plaguing our education system, to expose the inequities that hinder progress, and to offer practical solutions and guiding principles that can steer us towards a better future. Within these chapters, we will delve into the challenges faced by students, parents, educators, policymakers, and communities alike. It will ignite a collective sense of responsibility, to rally stakeholders from all walks of life, and to foster a nationwide conversation that compels us to take action. You can pre-order your copy today or mark your calendar to attend the book launch event on Saturday, September 23rd, 2023 in Lauderhill, FL, which will include a signed copy of the book, refreshments, and an interactive Q&A session.
The legacy of slavery is an ever-present reminder of humanity's capacity for both cruelty and resilience. While the chains of the past cannot be undone, we hold the power to break the shackles of systemic racism that continue to ensnare black communities. It starts with education. Let us create a movement to unite in the pursuit of justice, equality, and understanding, ensuring that the lessons of history drive us towards a future of compassion, acceptance, and genuine transformation.
Berwick Augustin is the founder of Evoke180, a leading publishing company that also specializes in Haitian-Creole translations. He is an educational consultant and keynote speaker who embodies two decades of experience as a writer, teacher, and assistant principal. Berwick is the author, most recently, of bilingual books, Days, Months, and Seasons in Haitian-Creole, The Haitian-Creole Alphabet-and 1803 The Haitian Flag.