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February 1, 2021
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JP O'Hare

(518) 474-1201



Statement on Black History Month From Chancellor Young, the Board of Regents and Interim Commissioner Rosa

Each February, Americans celebrate the innumerable and enduring contributions of African Americans during Black History Month. Certainly, there is tremendous value in recognizing these contributions that helped advance our knowledge and our civilization in so many ways. We bore witness to the senseless deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and so many other people of color. As well, while we continue to reel from the utter devastation that COVID-19 has inflicted upon every aspect of our lives, we must recognize that the pandemic has hit our communities of color hardest. In the face of this race-based unfairness and inhumanity, it is more important than ever to recognize the achievements and contributions of African Americans.

At the same time, however, we must do much more to ensure that African American history is not confined to a single month or series of events. It is critical that schools embed these lessons throughout the school year and throughout the entire curriculum. While teaching New York’s children about the period of enslavement, the Civil War, reconstruction, Jim Crow, and the civil rights movement is imperative, we must teach our students the entirety of the black and brown experience in America. One cannot possibly understand the complexities of our nation’s fraught racial history if we do not explicitly teach all students about the African American experience and the innumerable and enduring ways that African Americans have improved our lives and advanced our civilization.

As educators, our collective response to the inequities we have all witnessed requires us to support and build the self-esteem and identity of the very students who have been historically under-supported in our society and our schools. We must work for a day that the contributions of Black Americans are not relegated to a single month but, rather, are recognized as an integral, inseparable part of the American Story.