The history of the African empires that flourished between the 14th and 19th centuries, African culture and its diffusion with European and Asian culture, and the contributions of black Americans to American society are the subjects of a course offered at Elmont Memorial High School which focuses on the African Diaspora, or the massive movement of Africans around the world.
During the first half of a semester the course is offered, it focuses on the development of Africa and the culture of past African empires, as well as how African culture spread through the world through trade, migration and, of course, slavery, eventually combining with other cultures. Later in the semester, African American culture and how black Americans “have added to American society” become the focus of the class, said Frank Nuara, chair of the high school’s social studies department.
The district-wide elective was first offered in the 2020-2021 school year, when it was taught virtually due to the pandemic.
Nuara said students who enroll in the course are often eager to find out what it focuses on. “A lot of students don’t know what to expect when they enroll,” he said, “and throughout the course they really get a deep understanding of African culture, which they like.” Nuara said the class is popular among students, which has become more evident recently with the return to in-person classes. “Having the students back in the building, you really see the level of fun being in this class,” he said.
The district started creating the class ahead of the social justice movement sparked by the May 2020 killing of George Floyd, Nuara said, because it wanted to offer a class on global African history. “We felt it was necessary to understand African culture,” he said, adding that former students who visit the school often say they wish they had known more about the subject.
While another elective focuses on social issues facing the black community in America today, Nuara said students enjoy the African Diaspora class because of its focus on the less pressing aspects of life. the African and black experience. “They also like to look at the positive aspects of the African experience,” he said.
Kareem Agoro, who taught the class last year, said the history of African empires is largely forgotten in today’s society. While the course mainly focuses on the African diaspora around the world, he said, the history of African “grandeur” in ancient times is detailed in detail with a focus on the African empires that dominated the continent long before the rise of the Western world and the colonization of Africa. “Africa has showcased flourishing civilizations,” Agoro said, adding that African nations established trade relations with Asia and Europe early on, a topic that is discussed in the class.
Agoro said he focused on the changes that took place in Africa when European colonization began, as well as the possible mixing of African cultures and the “sharing of ideas” with those of the Western world.
Ultimately, however, he said, “the class focuses on how Africans thrive in other parts of the world.”
The class ends well, Agoro said, with a discussion of the “positive impacts” of African Americans on American society. Students learn about their musical and culinary contributions, he said, and key figures in African American history.
The class is important because it gives students the opportunity to better understand themselves — and others — better, Agoro said. “So we all know each other and we all know the origins of Africa,” he said, summarizing the focus of the course. “We forget the impact of Africa.”