For One Bronx School, Black History is Never Limited to One Month

There are still a few more days left before Black History Month begins, but one Bronx school never waits until February to start the lessons. NY1's Bronx Reporter Erin Clarke has that story.

The hallways of Cornerstone Academy for Social Action in Eastchester are adorned with pictures of notable African-Americans.

"It kind of in a way empowers us," one student said.

It's not an early start to Black History month, because it's always Black History Month at the school.

Cornerstone Academy, or CASA, is in the Northeast Bronx, where the population is largely African-American.

Principal Jamaal Bowman founded the middle school eight years ago to inspire students in communities of color to excel academically by using their history.

"When you look at test scores of black and Latinos, I think they're near the bottom because they haven't learned enough about themselves and who they are," Bowman said.

"If they learn more, they would be engaged more with the curriculum, which would uplift their intellectual ability," Bowman continued.

Black History is infused in lessons all year-round. The lives of controversial figures left out of traditional school texts are even explored. Often taught from books, staff dip into their pockets to provide because they aren't part of the curriculum for the city's education department.

"We have to actually bring books that are never going to be in the classroom, maybe in public schools," said Lavonne Hunter, a 6th Grade teacher. "Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's 'What Color is My World?' and that's our classroom text."

But the emphasis on black culture at CASA doesn't mean that the history of other cultures isn't also part of the curriculum

Other nationalities are celebrated and traditional American history is taught at the school. But CASA is made up of predominantly black and Hispanic students.

The principal acknowledges that some families might be turned off by the school's focus on black culture, but he says he welcomes everyone.

"If all kids of all races learned about each other throughout K-12, they would be more apt to collaborate and connect and live with love," Bowman said.

And Bowman attributes CASA's curriculum to an increase in students' standardized test scores and overall progress as measured by the city over the years.

Parents say CASA is doing something right.

"What they're being taught here is something that's going to last with them for a lifetime," said Charlana Walker, the PTA president of the school.

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