LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Black History Month has been celebrated in the United States for more than 50 years. But, diversity education is a year-round staple of the curriculum inside Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS).
"Teaching black history is just a part of the truth of history," said Kiara Gray.
Gray, a historian, teaches Black Historical Consciousness at Valley High School. Her students range from freshmen to seniors, and her classes encourage curiosity, lively debate, and student engagement.
"I try to start every year with creating a class contract to get everyone on the same page," she said. "We are going to be uncomfortable at some point, and we need to get comfortable with that to be able to have everyone genuinely engage and feel like they can ask questions."
As a historian, Gray said it's important to her to teach all of history - and the importance of it.
"That's including everyone that has a story, all the stories that are part of history, which include Black stories and African-American stories," she said.
The success of Gray's classes and similar courses throughout the district are a source of pride for Dr. John Marshall, JCPS' Chief Equity Officer.
"We are encouraging teachers to go a bit beyond if possible," Marshall said. "One thing that we always teach our kids is to not lie. So, one of the things we are doing with our curriculum is to stop lying. Let's tell the truth about what our curriculum is, and is not, then let students and people discern what it is they want to believe, follow, or not follow."
Back in the classroom, Gray is conscious of the importance of her work - and laser-focused on the merits of it.
"It's challenging as a black woman teaching black history," Gray said. "It is not all rainbows and sunshine. It is very hard. It is emotional."
Despite the challenges, Gray said she sees her classroom as an opportunity to teach the next generation about power and resilience.
"It is so exciting to see students engage and want to know more about their history and want to see themselves in history and what they can do and how they can change the future as well," she said.