Flushing black history committee in motion

By Madina Toure

As Black History Month kicks off, a black history committee made up of Flushing residents is working on a number of initiatives, such as a more comprehensive African-American history curriculum in public schools, to help their community.

During a recent committee meeting the chairwoman, Flushing resident Carol Whiting, 72, said she is putting together a list of resources to present to Danielle Dimango, superintendent of School District 25, which she will then e-mail and fax out to all the schools in the district.

“I think this is a good start, to get started for the youngsters in the classroom,” Whiting said.

She is starting with District 25, which includes Whitestone, Flushing and Fresh Meadows, but hopes to expand to the rest of the city. The resource list will include student trips, landmarks, guest speakers, books, CDs and tapes.

She said that there a number of sites in Flushing where students can learn about black history.

“You’ve got the Lewis H. Latimer Museum, you’ve got the Quaker House,” she said.

She plans to include a binder formulated by the Black History Commemorative Society, a Connecticut-based company that preserves and promotes black history.

The binder consists of a complete collection of more than 100 African Americans who have been honored in the past 70 years on U.S. postage stamps that are no longer sold at the post office and are becoming increasingly hard to find.

Another of the committee’s projects is working to reposition the portrait of African-American philanthropist Mary Ann Shaw, founder of the Flushing Library, in the library at 41-17 Main St.

The proposal is to have a smaller portrait in the Mary Ann Shaw children’s room and a larger one in the front.

“We want try to make it larger and put it more toward the front of the library,” she said.

The committee also has some partnerships underway. Whiting has been in touch with Katha Cato, executive director of the Queens World Film Festival, who said the organization has a group of young African-American filmmakers whom they are training and paying so they can further themselves in their profession.

The committee will have the opportunity to meet with actor and film director Mario Van Peebles, who will be at the festival.

“I want to get involved with these young black filmmakers because I know that sounds exciting,” she said. “I mean, that’s awesome.”

Writer, producer and filmmaker Carl Clay, founder of Black Spectrum Theatre in Jamaica, is also a potential partner.

Other members of the committee include Dr. Evelyn Julmisse, coordinator of Queens College’s Africana Studies Program, and Shirley Gilbert, president of the Northeast Queens Multicultural Democratic Club.

The committee will also be preparing a public service announcement for Queens Public Television as well as getting a tour of QPT’s facility. QPT wants some of its programming incorporated into the public school system in conjunction with Whiting.

The city Department of Education said black history is integrated into DOE classrooms through the agency’s K-12 Social Studies Scope and Sequence, which guides studies instruction in all DOE schools.

Black history is also incorporated into DOE classrooms through other instructional documents, support from DOE leadership and carefully selected texts and primary sources.

“Any proposed instructional materials must be carefully reviewed and approved by our Instructional Materials Review Unit,” the spokesman said in an e-mail.

Reach reporter Madina Toure by e-mail at mtour[email protected]local.com or by phone at (718) 260–4566.

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