Raquel Saenz, a teacher in the Diploma Plus program at Charlestown High School, has been developing and teaching a curriculum based on the Ethnic Studies framework for years. She shared many resources with the archive that can provoke critical reflection on the possibilities of teaching Ethnic Studies in Boston.
Raquel teaches a 12th grade Afro-Caribbean history class to primarily Black and Latinx students with roots in the Caribbean. One set of lessons she shared was on African origins of the New World, and Raquel suggests scaffolding the assignment to support students in finding evidence, as well as including some higher-level reading assignments for some students. Another creative project that students do is to research individuals or groups who have been impactful in your community. One student chose to present on the Young Lords (picture included). One other unit is on conspiracies and government suppression of Black liberation movements, specifically through COINTELPRO, including a teach-in on Nipsey Hussley.
A large part of Raquel’s teaching involves connecting students to activists, organizers, and cultural figures in Black, Indigenous, and People of Color communities within Boston. For example, her students did a neighborhood tour with Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative to analyze the effects of gentrification and community organizing to fight gentrification (picture included). Students also worked with the Ujima Project to understand cooperative economics (picture included). Students also heard from a guest speaker who was the former Director of Education for the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe, as part of a Day of Mourning workshop on the genocide of native peoples by European colonizers in the Americas. Additionally, the Diploma Plus program infuses Ethnic Studies into their community routines. For example, they begin every day together as a community with a practice of “Harambee,” a Swahili word that means “pull together,” and which involves sharing and analyzing a quotation by an activist of color every day (picture included).
Raquel credits her teaching in an alternative program with her ability to develop and teach a course that challenges Eurocentric attitudes, teaches students their history (including pre-colonial history), build students’ analytical skills of structures of oppression, and inspires students with stories of resistance from their own communities.