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African American studies program one of a kind

Denisha M. DeLane
Thursday September 26, 2002

To the Editor: 

On the front page of the Daily Planet Sept. 24, I was horrified to find the heading “High School axes African-American Studies Program.” As a 1996 graduate of Berkeley High School, I am increasingly embarrassed and outraged by decisions made by the Berkeley Unified School District. 

It is interesting that these sorts of decisions to do away with few working aspects left at Berkeley High; continue to pass without public input, and at the very least communication with the department affected. Here we are in radical Berkeley, where we have more public forums than most city governments throughout the country, but just not on this particular issue. I will not for a moment believe that those involved ever intended on garnering the attention of the target population they are directly affecting. I am however convinced that this type of disregard will no longer be tolerated. 

Subsequent to all of this BUSD’s board and staff has no clear direction or plan to solve the high rate of drop out and failure of its students of color. Rebuilding a continuation school and passing it off as an alternative school that simply houses minority students is not the answer to the truancy and high failure rates. For far to long, minority students have been edged out of this so called “unified” district through tracking, and preferences. How long will we continue to be satisfied with extensions for accreditations? 

The African American studies department provides an avenue for education specific to African American culture that cannot be achieved anywhere else. It is a benefit to the entire BHS population. Thought its curriculum, and individual attention the department has instilled in these youth a sense of self worth, and pride for cross cultural diversity. Where else are these students going to be presented the works of WEB DuBois, Frederick Douglas, Cornel West, Michael Eric Dyson, Amiri Baraka, Maya Angelou, Julian Bond, and others?  

Are we expected to believe American history will include more than Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue?  


Denisha M. DeLane 

board member, NAACP