Groundbreaking Teacher Seeks Your Support
by Ray Winbush, Ph.D.
January 12, 2001
I am Director of the Race Relations Institute at Fisk University in Nashville.
In October I, along with members of my staff and four students from Fisk, came to New York to demonstrate on behalf of Yaa Nzingha. She is a junior high school "master drama teacher" who was recently fired for telling her students to refer to themselves as Africans - - not Americans.
The Race Relations Institute stands fully behind Sister Nzingah's struggle to teach an African-centered curriculum to Our children. Writer Asiba Tupahache, along with The Village Voice and other media outlets, made her case a national story.
This case is about the frontal assault on Black teachers who teach our children about their history, place, and challenges.
What is needed now are bodies and persons to wage the struggle on behalf of Yaa. The Race Relations Institute organizes local groups all over the nation on issues of racial injustice and has been doing this since 1942. Frankly, my staff has been disappointed about the efforts of persons in New York to press Yaa's case. In September, Naomi Tutu, the Program Coordinator for the RRI and daughter of Archbishop Desmond Tutu and I
worked to elect the first Black mayor of Selma Alabama; she and I feel that the Black people in Selma could be an example of community organizing for some in New York.
On paper, New York with Brooklyn and Harlem are viewed as the center of the Black universe in this country. We must overcome this outrageous passivity of New Yorkers and others all across the country relative to Ms. Nzingha's case. The RRI can do only so much, but it is important for local support to be vocal, organized and strong in support of injustices that confront their community.
I am asking all persons in New York and across the country to read about her case, then call, write, fax to the persons below. Her case is representative of similar attacks on Black teachers around the country who seek to teach their students who they are.
Sister Nzingha says, "Letters need to pour in to Dr. Young . . . and Harold Levy . . . expressing outrage about the situation and demanding the reinstatement of myself and Lauristine Gomes . . . I am also looking for groups and organizations willing to have me come in and speak about the plight of black educators who teach the truth."
Raymond A. Winbush, Ph.D., is Director of the Race Relations Institute at Fisk University. Reach him at (615) 329-8575.