BCNY Updates

Alumnus Spotlight: BCNY Alumnus Alfred Robertson on Black History in Schools

February 1st, 2023

When I look in the mirror, I can still see and feel the boy I was a decade ago. The mirror casts a reflection of myself in the past, with the knowledge I have now. The boy in the mirror never saw representations of Black people in school, which imposed ideas of who he was and what he could be. That boy was forced to learn a history that didn’t belong to him and intentionally excluded him and Black people. I believe the way I saw myself and my future as a boy would have been different if Black stories and perspectives were part of our everyday curriculum in school. 

Not seeing myself represented in school history classes limited the expectations I had for myself. It also demonstrated that the adults teaching this limited version of American and world history had even fewer expectations. In college, I majored in Africana Studies to learn more about the history of my people. I knew I longed to learn the history of my people but I did not know the impact it would have on me beyond knowledge. It changed the way I saw myself in the world and helped me imagine a future beyond what I thought was possible. 

 The same year that I began Africana Studies, America was in an uproar over teaching critical race theory in public schools. This fueled my desire to learn new ways to integrate Africana Studies into my everyday life and allowed me to reflect on my own early education. I wondered if I would have been much more inquisitive if I received this knowledge at school as a boy. Luckily, from an early age, I was in spaces like the Boys’ Club of New York where mentors and peers embraced our diversity. We didn’t call it Black History, we were making Black History. 

 Black history must be included in earlier curriculum, so young men and women of color are able to forge their own identities. We must ensure that all future generations are equipped with the tools necessary to fully know themselves and their place in this world. My hope is that this knowledge will help create a world where black men aren’t being thrown in jail by the millions and black fathers remain the pillars of their families. That black women are loved, respected, and protected. That we can put an end to the -isms that haunt the African Diaspora. I believe that one day, we will move past our differences and build on our similarities as people. I believe one day, we shall overcome! 

Alfred Robertson

BCNY Alumnus, Member since 2016