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Black Literary Society at LBUSD

Group of students from LBUSD Black Literary Society

Pictured above, Harvard University professor Dr. Jarvis R. Givens (center front row) with students and leaders of the LBUSD Black Literary Society program. 

The Long Beach Unified School District is committed to continuing to center and elevate Black students and families through various programs in line with Vision 2035, a new aspirational vision that reimagines education in LBUSD. 

In recent years, LBUSD has introduced several programs to support Black students and their families. These programs include the Black Student Achievement Initiative, which aims to promote the academic success of Black students, and the Sankofa Parent Village (SPV), which provides a community of care and support for parents and caregivers of Black children. 

The word "Sankofa" comes from the Akan Tribe of Ghana and symbolizes the value of looking back at the past and using that knowledge to create a positive future.

“In Long Beach, Sankofa has been a central theme in our work to increase achievement, promote growth and a sense of belonging for our Black students,” Dr. Pam Lovett, an Excellence and Equity coordinator for LBUSD said. (See video here).

“The Sankofa symbol compels us to be knowledge seekers. People who engage in investigating the past to fill in knowledge gaps by critically analyzing new learning and putting it to use to increase understanding of ourselves, to plan and problem solve,” Dr. Lovett added. 

Most recently, LBUSD launched a Black Literary Society program at all high schools to provide students with an opportunity to read and learn from the rich history of Black education and literature.

Inaya, a junior at the California Academy of Mathematics and Science (CAMS), describes the school’s Black Literary Society as “a program where Black students can learn more about Black history, culture and our communities through different forms of writing.”

This year, the LBUSD Black Literary Society program has partnered with Harvard University professor Dr. Jarvis R. Givens to support students in their academic, intellectual and cultural development through a reading of his book, “School Clothes: A Collective Memoir of Black Student Witness.” 

Dr. Givens visited Long Beach in the fall of 2023 to work with students as the District kicked off the literary society programs. In mid-April, several students will travel to Harvard to meet with Dr. Givens and further discuss their findings from his book. 

“School Clothes is a collection of memoirs and they discuss the hardships African-Americans have to face just to retrieve an education in the United States,” said Lyric, a senior at Renaissance High School for the Arts. 

The literary society program also encourages students to examine and analyze text through a social, political, intellectual, cultural and economic (SPICE) framework in the curriculum developed by Dr. Givens. 

“The SPICE framework provides a lens for students to examine and analyze the text so they can go back and make those text-to-self connections,” shared Kimberly Johnson-Agulto, a leader of the Black Literary Society at CAMS. “It’s not their traditional question and answer, [the framework] is really [about] building knowledge and getting to that analysis stage.”

As the LBUSD Black Literary Society program prepares to celebrate its first successful year, it’s evident that it has provided valuable learning opportunities for all its participants, including educators like Devon'Te Jameson, who leads a Black Literary Society at Cabrillo High School.

“Every week we have Black Literary Society, I learn so much about my students, myself and how we connect with each other [and] to people from 100 years ago,” Jameson said.

  • 2024
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