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A Denver school will see Black Excellence in their curriculum thanks to the work of their students

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DENVER- Representation matters for cultural identity, self-love, and confidence. Alana Mitchel, Kaliah Yizar and Dahni Austin understood that deeply after a trip to Washington, D.C. with their teacher Kiara Roberts.

 “Our kids are on the plane creating a proposal to present to our social studies department the next day,” explained Roberts. 

The proposal and resolution was for their school, Martin Luther King Jr. Early College, to have more inclusive curriculum and books that reflect Black Excellence.

 It’s been 564 days since their trip to D.C., 195 days since their resolution passed.

 Although Alana Mitchel won’t be a part of the change she fought for in classrooms because graduated in spring 2021, she’s proud to see other students won’t miss out on their powerful history. 

“I’m most excited that I’ll be able see positive things that my people did because I’ve never seen anything positive, it’s always: slavery, civil rights, slavery, civil rights – but there’s nothing positive there. Other than the growth that we had,” she said.

Beyond the resolution, the students are trying to get Black History 365 textbooks in the hands of every student at MLK. But that effort comes with a cost. Each book is $175, so teacher Roberts says they’re looking at a bill of $40,000. 

Their passion, determination, and resilience got them a total of $24,000 from Little Man Ice Cream, community donations, and Dr. Ryan Ross, President and CEO of the Urban Leadership Foundation of Colorado.

 “This country is built on the backs of Black and Brown folks, but you look in history books and it doesn’t always show that,” said Dr. Ross. 

He also announced The Urban Leadership Foundation of Colorado would be adopting MLK and providing unequivocal support to their students and staff. Their support didn’t end there, Dr. Ross presented two scholarships to two of the students who will be graduating this spring.

 “It’s like somebody heard us and they heard our ask, and they were willing to help us, that is deep and we’re super grateful for it,” said Mitchel one of the students who received a scholarship. 

 Teacher Roberts says their classrooms are going to look completely innovated in the fall. “It’s going to be uplifting for them because we’re changing the narrative of what Black people are, we weren’t just slaves. We weren’t just the helpless population of people who just couldn’t figure it out. We are kings and queens.”

 She and her students who took the trip to D.C. learned that. Now they want students across the country to know their history matters and representation matters. 

 “Having to see all our history and seeing ourselves be successful and seeing ourselves in a positive light will inspire a lot of students to think, I don’t have struggle my entire life. I can go on and be great,” said Kaliah Yizar. 

If you would like to donate to the book project please visit www.ulfcolorado.org/Support and write Black History Books in the comments. 

Sonia Gutierrez is a multimedia journalist at RMPBS. You can reach Sonia at soniagutierrez@rmpbs.org.

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