New York City Board Backs New School Geared Toward Black and Hispanic Males

By Ann Bradley — January 16, 1991 2 min read

The New York City Board of Education last week lent its support to the creation of an alternative high school with a multicultural curriculum that would be focused primarily on the needs of black and Hispanic males. Proponents of the new school, which would be called the Ujamaa Institute after the Swahili word for “familyhood,’' said it would be open to students of both sexes and all races. However, they added, its primary mission would be to address the cycle of failure in which many young blacks and Hispanics are trapped. The school, which would be located on the campus of Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn, would organize some of its studies around the theme of the family in an attempt to “instill the values of responsibility and caring for each other,” said Basir Mchawi, who works in the department of instruction in the New York City schools.

Mr. Mchawi, Edison O. Jamison, the president of Medgar Evers College, and State Assemblyman Roger L. Green of Brooklyn have been working to develop a draft proposal for the school. Mr. Green and Mr. Jamison made a lengthy presentation of their ideas last week before the board of education, whose members expressed enthusiasm for the project.

Mr. Mchawi, a former administrator of Shule Ya Mapinduzi, an independent African-American school in Brooklyn, said the group will now develop a formal proposal for the board’s consideration within six months. They also have applied for a $75,000 planning grant from the Aaron Diamond Foundation, he added.

Chancellor Joseph A. Fernandez, whose contract was extended last week by the board until June 30, 1993, said the new school could serve as a “laboratory” to generate useful ideas for the entire school system.

Mr. Mchawi described the Ujamaa Institute’s proposed curriculum as “Africa-centered,” which he said means that “the experiences of African and African-American people becomes the perspective by which you view all cultures.”

“It will be multicultural to the extent that we view many cultures,”

Mr. Mchawi added, “but we will do so from the African perspective.’'

As now planned, the school would enroll between 100 and 200 students, and would open its doors next fall.

Mr. Jamison said that locating the school on the campus of Medgar Evers College, which is a branch of the City University of New York, is a logical extension of the college’s teacher-training program, which has a multicultural emphasis.

The college plans to work closely with the school and to conduct re search and evaluations of the pro grams that will provide the school district with information about whether the approach works, Mr. Jamison added.

A central aspect of the curriculum is expected to be an emphasis on coop erative learning and group projects, the college president said. Such in structional strategies, he said, will be used to give students a sense of their interdependence with other people.

A version of this article appeared in the January 16, 1991 edition of Education Week as New York City Board Backs New School Geared Toward Black and Hispanic Males