DENVER — After a year and a half advocating for Black history curriculum in Denver Public Schools, four Denver students are the closest they have ever been to accomplishing that goal.
Now, they are calling on community partners to help fund this progress.
Kaliah Yizar (15), Dahni Austin (16), Alana Mitchell (17) and Janelle Nangah (18) are all students at Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Early College (DMLK) in Denver. Since 2019, the four young ladies have been hard at work to bring a more inclusive account of American History to their school through the Black History 365 curriculum.
"I know history books I have read only address slavery or the civil rights movement. Whereas this book talks about every single thing," Austin said about the BH365 textbook. "There's not a single thing this book misses."
In October of last year, the four young women made history themselves when the Board of Education voted unanimously to pass their resolution - Know Justice Know Peace - ensuring that all schools within the Denver Public School District include the narratives, knowledge and contributions of Black, indigenous, Latino and other communities of color into the curriculum.
However, making that resolution a reality isn't cheap.
"$75,000 is our calculation of what we need for our 6th through 12th-grade school with approximately 1,300 students, in order to have a class set for each history classroom," said Kimberly Grayson, the principal at DMLK, who said they have not had conversations with the district as far as the funding of this textbook.
"Our motto at MLK is 'Don't wait, lead,' so that's what we're doing," Grayson said.
She said DMLK is having to come up with the money on their own at this point. Her four students who have been championing the effort are brainstorming ways to help, even considering a GoFundMe to get the textbooks in-house by the fall semester.
"These young ladies have created awareness, they've done a fantastic job and now it's the village's opportunity and responsibility to help them cross the line," said Dr. Ryan Ross with the Urban Leadership Foundation of Colorado.
As both an educator and father, he said that bringing more inclusive, honest American history to schools is high on the priority list for his children's education and all Denver students. When he heard about these four young ladies and their mission to make Black history accessible to students locally, he said it was too important not to get involved.
"My son and I have been having conversations for a couple of years about how Black history isn't being taught in the classroom," Ross said. "And when it is being taught, it's only focusing on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. or enslavement."
So when he learned it's a price tag that is holding this progress back, he put his money where his mouth is.
"Black history is American history," he said. "Principal Grayson shouldn’t have to sacrifice to make something this important happen. So, $10,000 is what we’re going to do. I hope that people will buy a book and donate it to DMLK or that other leaders will match our donation."
The Urban Leadership Foundation of Colorado is contributing the first donation of $10,000 to helping DMLK get its new BH365 curriculum. Ross said he believes it's time for the community to do its part teaching youth that Black history is American history.
"I'm just so proud of what they're doing," he said. "I decided that we should be helpful, and I hope that other people in the community will be helpful, too."
If you'd like to help fund the BH365 curriculum at DMLK by buying a book or donating funds, The Urban Leadership Foundation is accepting donations on their behalf. Visit the support page, and include "DMLK Black History 365" in the comment section when you donate.
Or, contact DMLK Principal Kimberly Grayson directly by emailing, Kimberly_Grayson@dpsk12.org.
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