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African American girl with colorful hat standing in the middle of other students

Students celebrate African American women’s heritage through unique course at Mission High School

02/21/18

One Mission High School class is proving that not all history lessons come from textbooks.

The African American Women’s Heritage course, being taught for a second time this semester after its inaugural iteration in spring 2017, explores the history of African American women before enslavement, and the power that these women have held over the course of history.

Class teacher Iminah Ahmad in front of white board and seated students“One of the things that is taught within the first two weeks of class is a lesson on the queens of Africa,” said Linda Jordan, the African American Postsecondary Pathway Manager at the San Francisco Unified School District.

She continued, “All of this was before enslavement. The majority of students, when they learn African American history, it starts with slavery. This is changing the narrative and giving students context that explores how women were creative, and actually ran dynasties.”

The elective course meets three times a week and is taught by Iminah Ahmad. It includes extensive investigation into African American history and helps students strengthen their sense of purpose and explore possible careers with the help of mentors.

There are 18 female African American students in the class, though Jordan emphasized the class is open to all girls. The class meets A-G requirements, meaning it counts toward one of the courses that students must take during high school in order to be eligible to apply to UCs/CSUs.

Last spring there were 21 students in the class, and Jordan said the school has secured funding through the district to roll out the class next fall at Mission High again, as well as possibly two other schools.

Student Raven Alyas, who is the official class documenter—meaning she takes photos every time they meet—emphasized the importance of teaching students a deeper history of African American heritage, especially that which is not shared in U.S. textbooks.

“Very few times do I know students who realize how powerful we were...and how we did run dynasties, we had emperors, empresses, kings, and queens,” Raven said. “There are so many countries within Africa and we don’t really know where we come from because a lot of our heritage and culture was changed throughout the slave trade.”

Whiteboard with text: "I am. I am beautiful and black. I am vibrant. I am worthy of all things this world has to offer. I am spirit-filled. I am confident. I am unbreakable. I am me."Students in the class are encouraged to share what they love about being Black.

The classroom’s whiteboard reads: “I am. I am beautiful and black. I am vibrant. I am worthy of all things this world has to offer. I am spirit-filled. I am confident. I am unbreakable. I am me.”