Afrocentric Feminist Education: The Alternative Solution
Peck, RaShelle R.
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Afrocentric education, or African-centered education, attempts to address basic defects of the U.S. educational system. African-centered education is taught from the perspective of peoples of the African Diaspora. By centering the curriculum on the culture of peoples of African decent, advocates claim students can more effectively relate to the material and develop a positive image of African Diasporic culture. If students can relate to the curriculum, and a learning environment can celebrate African American culture positively, their own identity as an individual African American can be fostered positively. Placing African Americans at the center of their learning experience means that all academic subjects relate to studies of the African Diaspora. Furthermore, African-centered curricula also focus on the formation of a positive Black consciousness that provides African Americans with a learning base from the Black perspective. Centralizing Black students in their own culture seeks to empower them by encouraging pride and a positive self-identity. However, as a theory that should be dedicated to the eradication of oppressions and the empowerment of African Americans, many theorists of Afrocentricity, such as Molefi Asante, Kwame Agyei Akoto, and George J. Sefa Dei, fall severely short of fully addressing sexism and patriarchal forces that operate in the classroom and in the Black community. While Afrocentric curricula attempt to address a fundamental problem in the education of Black students, the movement lacks constructive feminist thought. This has created significant limitations toward empowerment of African American female students especially, as well as for the overall success of Afrocentric schools. Firstly, many schools and academies lack curricula centered on Black women's experience both historically and currently. These schools teach a male-centered curriculum, which ignores the voice and presence of women in history. Secondly, teachers are unable or unwilling to focus specifically on centering Black female students disregarding the marginalization of female students in the classroom. Lastly, while Afrocentric academies focus on eradicating racism to empower students, these schools ignore sexism as a system of domination. Without attacking sexist tendencies both in the classroom and in curriculum, the marginalization of female students is both created and fostered. Afrocentric education should revolutionize Black education by dismantling racism, sexism, and classism while simultaneously working to rebuild the consciousness and identity of Black students. Specific curricula should incorporate theories central to becoming educated and conscious of dominant forces in US society for all African American students. The alliance of Afrocentricity and feminism would exemplify a working theory for the revolution of Black education, dedicated to the eradication of all oppression. Both feminist thought and Afrocentric ideology need to be present in the academic setting to facilitate an autonomous movement and a cohesive learning environment to promote empowerment of African American students. While both theories advocate the destruction of social oppression, these two camps have yet to converge. As a result, many Afrocentric schools lack feminist liberatory pedagogies that remain significant in the construction of positive identity building for Black female and male students. In an era of progressive schooling for African American children, where Afrocentric schools are becoming increasingly popular in Black communities, the fact that a more collaborative theory, aimed at eliminating race, sex, and class oppression has not been forged is both a peculiarity and an appalling tragedy to Black education. The Afrocentric movement cannot accomplish the desired goals as a liberatory movement by ignoring the marginalization of women in the academy and in society. Afrocentric theory thus proves counterproductive if schools seek to empower socially, academically, and psychologically, students while simultaneously marginalizing Black women in both the curriculum and classroom. Afrocentric education, as a political movement, committed to disassembling all forms of hegemonic dominance, must be willing to evolve with feminist thought to produce a coherent theory of liberation. African-centered schools must be social and academic centers for the celebration of African American and other African Diasporic cultures, while concurrently debunking systems of domination, such as sexism, classism, and racism. Only when schools striye to eradicate these oppressions through the empowennent ofAfrican American students, can Afrocentric academies truly provide a liberatory education.