“Honestly, I was discouraged. I thought she was going to be like other teachers I have had, sugarcoating things. Now, I am so glad. She knows what she’s talking about.”
About 100 students, three of them white, are enrolled in Black studies this semester. Fasasi points out that in her other classes, mostly advanced placement, the demographics are the opposite.
“Look around this room,” she says. “The only white person is …”
“Me!” Boland says, smiling, but adding that the last thing she would ever allow is for this class to become a joke. The reason she is teaching it, she says, is that she is the only qualified teacher available right now to lead the class.
“In an ideal world, a Black teacher would teach Black studies class,” she says. “But it came down to, I teach the class or we don’t have the class.”
Boland says she has learned as much from listening to her students as they learn from her.
“I love doing this because of the importance of race relations and all the stuff going on in the world right now — all of the reasons that I should — but really, intellectually, academically, I am learning an astounding amount of things for someone at this point in her career.”
Fasasi and the pupils flanking her, La’Miya Sparks and Keyilah Rowe, have mixed feelings regarding the enrollment of more white classmates. On one hand, they like having what Sparks calls a “safe space” for discussions about hard topics. On the other, they think their white peers, like anyone, could benefit from the material.
Fasasi says she is studying the civil rights era in her regular U.S. history class, and this class is different, deeper.
Rowe adds that in other history classes she has been led to believe that America was always right, justified and “the good guys.”