Addressing racial injustice issues in schools following nation wide protests

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The Williams Academy Black History Museum. Photo via WINK News

Kids have witnessed protests all over the U.S following the death of George Floyd.

We wanted to know if local school districts are addressing racial injustice differently as your kids head back to class.

Out of our local counties, the Lee County school district was the only one that’s gone beyond the discussions by developing educational events to address the racial issues happening in our country.

Part of that involves a museum the county already has but few know about.

“When I was in middle school, I was in this building. It was a shop in one room and a band room,” said Charles Barnes, chairman of Lee County Black History Society.

The Williams Academy Black History Museum is an important part of local history, yet few will ever learn about it in a history textbook.

“It was the first sanctioned government-funded building to educate Black kids in three surrounding counties,” Barnes said.

It wasn’t until Charles Barnes started visiting the Dunbar library in high school that he really dove into local black history.

It helped him learn about a local lawsuit similar to Brown vs. Board of Education.

“Blalock case, who was a local black family here who filed a lawsuit so that blacks could enter into the Lee County School district,” Barnes said.

However, that integration took 10 years to happen. Now, it raises questions about what’s taught in your child’s history classes.

“Are you including in that history the 10 years after the federal law said that we should end segregation, 10 years later we got it,” Barnes said.

There are questions about what will be added to lessons in history classes, and what will not be.

“I’m the first African-American to sit on the school board in 130 years, how is that going to be in history? Will it be in history?,” said Gwyn Gittens, Lee County School District, School Board Member, District 5.

Gwyn had this to say about watching videos surface of systemic racism across our country, including the death of George Floyd.

“I saw my son, my husband, my brothers.”

This has inspired Gittens to be more vocal when it comes to educating students about racism.

“We’re going to get some pushback from wanting to rewrite those history books and all that kind of stuff, but it can be done,” Gittens said.

Just reading history won’t be enough, Gittens says a major part of moving forward requires understanding one another.

“If you really wanna understand me, then listen to me, ask me some questions,” Gittens said.

That’s why the local Black History Society is working with Lee County schools, so more students can walk through the Williams Academy, where local history comes to life.

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