12-year-old NJ student on mission to make school's curriculum more diverse

A Camden County, New Jersey middle school student is on a personal mission to change her school district's curriculum. She says there needs to be more Black history taught in the classroom.

Henry C Beck Middle School 7th grader Ebele Azikiwe gave a presentation in front of New Jersey Assembly's Education Committee on why curriculums need to be more inclusive and transparent on Thursday afternoon.

"Black history is extremely important with all the George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and all the other people who have died recently. When I think about history, I think of just a sad story, but Black culture is more than just a sad story," said 12-year-old Ebele.

In her letter, she shares it's not just Black history, it's American history. It all started back in fifth grade when she was doing a Black history project and realized she didn't know many pioneers.

"I could tell you every single fact there is about Martin Luther King, Harriet Tubman and Rosa Parks, but that's all I could tell you," Ebele said.

Her mother, Rume Azikiwe, took to Facebook about her daughter's call to action and that's how it got the attention of legislators who asked the 12-year-old to share her story.

"Never in a million years would I think to speak up and say anything. Just the fact she was able to start this movement at the age of 11, now 12, I'm beyond thrilled," said Rume.

Ebele isn't just asking for change, but shares solutions, like incorporating more diverse authors into the curriculum. She's an ambassador for the non-profit Rise Against Hate who shared her mission on Facebook.

"It needs to be incorporated for Black History Month, but it needs to be taught year-round. It's important that we have diverse authors and we shouldn't just be reading history books about people that look like me," said Rise Against Hate executive director and co-founder Ben Shore.

Legislators heard from Ebele and will take a vote on if they will change the curriculum in the future. The wise 12-year-old says her proposal is ultimately about teaching tolerance.

"When people don't really understand why other people feel a certain way, when people don't understand another person's culture, you don't understand the person," Ebele said.
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