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Black literature course brings inclusion to Wauwatosa East HS: ‘We all feel equal’

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WAUWATOSA -- Juniors and seniors at Wauwatosa East High School are diving into a new black literature course that's helping bring about empathy, inclusion, and change.

These are lessons that will extend well beyond these walls. Recognizing the struggles of different cultures may be the same as others, but are just dealt with differently.

Balie Williams

"Everyone feels in the same boat," senior Balie Williams said. "We all feel equal."

"It's been about supporting students and understanding African American experiences and cultures in the United States," said Dave Dentinger, the supervisor of secondary education. "They will do that through film, through books, through essay short stories."

Dentinger believes the unique course is progressive and acknowledges the need to identify with diversity as demographics in high schools change.

Teachers were given the resources and training needed to take on the task that had been requested by students and parents over the years.

"It's just important of students in today's world to have a safe place to have facilitated conversations that might be contentious but they are learning to listen and be patient with one another because we understand how important that is in today's world," said Allesha Gilbert-Ewing, a teacher at Tosa East.

Allesha Gilbert-Ewing

Gilbert-Ewing says this happens through four major focuses: identity, connection to society, connection to community and our future.

"We also tackle different systems so we talk about educational systems we talk about housing how that not only impacts African Americans but the rest of our society," she said. "We also tackle things such as racism, sexism, classism."

Minorities make up 30 to 40 percent of the student population in the Wauwatosa School District.

Wauwatosa East Students

The exploration of reading, writing and researching themes and issues allows students to relate.

"Being kind of mindful of what's happening especially for African Americans and the minority groups in general, and saying I can be an active member in changing it for them. We can't get there if we are not working together."

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