Jan. 14—On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a special conference and workshop on teaching Black history will be held at Boone Tavern for educators across the state.
The event is hosted by the Association for Teaching Black History in Kentucky, a collaboration between Berea College, Kentucky State University, the Muhammad Ali Center, and Kentucky History Resources LLC. The group was created in 2022 to help fill in gaps about Black history in Kentucky's education systems.
"We want to support teachers who want to teach Black history and be able to hear questions that they might have. This event on Monday is about that. It's an opportunity for teachers to hear from experts," Chaka Cummings, executive director of the program, said. "We're gonna have a roundtable discussion about navigating the waters in terms of teaching Black history and how different laws in our state have shifted."
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The conference will begin at 9 a.m. with a continental breakfast available for attendees beginning at 8:30 a.m., with music from Kenyatta Pinkney. Cummings, Dr. Thomas S. Tucker, and Berea College President Dr. Lyle Roelofs will speak.
From 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., a roundtable discussion on teaching Black history will be held between Kentucky educators.
Following a break for lunch, a hands-on workshop led by Dr. Kathy Swan and Dr. Ryan Crowley will begin at 1 p.m. and end at 2:30 p.m.
The event will be closed with a keynote address from Dr. William Turner.
Cummings said the seminar will give educators some knowledge to take back to their classrooms and also an opportunity to share ideas with their peers.
Cummings, a graduate of Berea College, has spent nearly two decades in education, working in all K-12 levels in subjects like math, English, religion, physical education, and social studies. The latter being his specialty. He has been a teacher, an administrator, and a coach.
"I was at the Pritchard Committee in terms of education advocacy and really thinking about what's in the best interest for students across the commonwealth," Cummings said. "I had the opportunity to hear some of the conversations and legislation around teaching — what can be taught and what can't be taught. What I hope to do with the Association for Teaching Black History in Kentucky is to help teachers be able to navigate those waters in terms of effectively teaching Black history across the commonwealth, knowing that it's incredibly important to teach history and understand localized history. As we start to look at the history of Black Kentuckians, that's a story that doesn't get told as robustly as others."
Black history is a particularly special topic for the people at Berea College, as the founder of Black History Month (initially announced as Negro History Week in Feb. 1926), Carter G. Woodson, graduated from the college in 1903.
"Black history literally starts in this state. For example, I would love to be a teacher in Bourbon County and teach a lesson on Garrett A. Morgan, the inventor of traffic lights. To talk about his invention and his ingenuity and bounce that off of the reality of the time he lived. A time of segregation and the incredible amount of adversity he had to overcome to be as successful as he was," Cummings said.
For those educators who feel under-equipped to teach Black history, Cummings encourages research — saying that the resources are out there to support that topic. He references the Thomas D. Clarke Foundation's website, https://historyofrace.com/, as a particularly helpful resource.
"There are components (on the website) that are localized for Kentucky history and there are national components. There are sample lesson plans. What I'm saying to educators is take the time to do the research and hopefully you'll be able to find the resources you need to support the work you do in the classroom," Cummings said.