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What teachers must know about African-American culture?

By Chantale JimenezCSMS Magazine Staff WriterThe history of African Americans in the United States began in 1619 when the first slaves from Africa were brought to the shores of North America.  African Americans were the only group of all the other ethnic groups to arrive against their will.  Over 40 identifiable ethnic groups from 35 different kingdoms were sold to the United States during the Atlantic Slave trade.  African American culture is an amalgam of influences, including African, Caribbean, European, and Latino cultures.  From its music and dance, to speech, demeanor, and food ways, African American culture bears the strong imprint of West Africa, particularly in rural portions of the Deep South and Sea Islands of Georgia and South Carolina.African American parents believe strongly in home and school based involvement.  African American parents teach their children to respect their elders and value education.  African American parents try to listen to their children’s point of view, some of the time. African American parents will seek help from the school when their children are experiencing social and educational problems.  I believe that educators should view the parents’ distinct involvement strategies as a reflection of their cultural styles rather than their levels of investment in education. School officials should recognize and even pay close attention to the non-dominant/ethnic cultural capital of parents as valuable and should seek to build on it to create stronger connections between schools and communities. They should also recognize school-based expectations of parents as one set of cultural beliefs (among several) about the appropriate role of parents in education. (Diamond 2004)            I think the first thing that the teacher must be aware of is the behavior that is expected of the student from his/her culture.  The teacher must realize that there are words that have a different meaning for the student from another culture.  The teacher needs to be aware of the learning styles of the students from the other culture.  The teacher must have a genuine appreciation for the valuable repertoire of experiences African Americans students bring to the school. Avoid segregating students by cultural groups, and do not allow students to segregate themselves.  The teacher should not base the student’s capability by their proficiency with the cultural mainstream. The teacher should realize that every American is a product of his or her culture, and tolerance and understanding of language differences exist in such a diverse population.  Also have high expectations of all students and realize that positive expectations increase student achievement.            Some strategies that the teacher can use to help educate African American students are: a) Leading a classroom discussion on stereotyping and the consequence of stereotyping for achievement. b) Institute some activities without grade assessment, which will help students overcome initial anxiety.  c) Have an alternate testing method appropriate for African American students.  d) Recognize efforts as well as accomplishments, especially in African American students. e) Use computers for more than drill exercises for students.  f) Incorporate the historical and contemporary contributions of African Americans students in the curriculum.  g) And last, teachers can take advantage of corporate program, which provide speakers to encourage the interest of African American students in technical careers.             The Great Civil Rights Movement of the 1950’s and 1960’s brought about a new generation of African Americans who were committed to advancing the cause of justice and equality.  Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a white man on the Montgomery city bus, and it created a bus boycott that did not end until the most visible signs of racism were overthrown. Martin Luther King Jr. became the spokes person for the people that were tired of racism and being segregated.  He was prepared to die for the equal rights of African Americans. In 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education: US Supreme Court bans segregation in public schools. But it took several years later before the schools would allow African Americans to enter public schools.             The African American society is based on religious ceremonies, feasting, cooking, and raising food. The popular term for the African American cooking is called “Soul food”.   Some of the foods that are good for you to eat are collard greens, squash, beans, rice, and potatoes.  Other parts of the diet are low in fiber calcium, potassium, and high in fat.  The most common way that African Americans prepare their food is frying it.  They also like to barbeque and make gravy. African Americans like to have sweets wit their meals.  Some of their favorite sweets are homemade cakes and sweet potato pies. (Ewing)  Some of the attire that they wear is called dashiki.  This is either for women and men; some of the men’s attire comes with pants.  Some African Americans think that women should not wear slacks when going to church but it is okay to wear them otherwise.   


 Asante, M. Countours of the African American Culture.  Retrieved Feb. 17, 2006. http://www.africawithin.com/asante/contours.htm.Diamond, J. (2004). The importance of race, class, and culture. Retrieved Feb. 17, 2006, from Fine Network Web site:http://www.gse.harvard.edu/hfrp/projects/fine/resources/digest/race.html.Ewing, J.  Cultural Diversity: Eating in America African American.Retrieved Feb. 17, 2006, from The Ohio State University site: http://www.ohioline.osu.edu/hyg-fact/5000/5250.html.Civil Rights History and Timeline.  Retrieved Feb.17, 2006, from African Americans. Com:http://www.africanamericans.com/CivilRights.htm.Strategies for Teaching Science to African American Students. Retrieved Feb. 17, 2006. http://www.as.wvu.edu~equity/african.html.

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