Ricki Butler

Ricki current

I was very fortunate in that I was in a gifted and talented program in a Harlem elementary school. Our class was heterogeneous with regard to race and ethnicity. My teacher for three years from grades 4 through 6 was a strong, brilliant African American woman who was tough and demanding. Each week we had a Black history lesson from another strong teacher, an African American man. Our music teacher, yet another African American man, taught us all forms of music, especially using African instruments.

Every day was Black History Day – there was no celebration relegated to February. At our graduation, we all sang “To Be Young Gifted and Black” and we meant it. We had so many wonderful role models who reminded us on a daily basis how much they expected from us and how much we were obligated to bring to the world. The name of the school was changed from the Robert Frost School to the Malcolm X School. This name was selected after students entered a context in which they had to research strong Black leaders and give a presentation at an assembly. Louis Armstrong came in second. I had such wonderful memories of that school. It prepared me for a world in which things were not always equitable for people who looked like me. But I rose and I still rise as I strive to serve as an example to my students and to the school administrators I meet and work with. Whatever you talk about at your dining room table is no true representation of who I am, or who my brothers and sisters are.

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The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross is a film by Kunhardt McGee Productions, THIRTEEN Productions LLC, Inkwell Films, in assocation with Ark Media.