By: Matsemela Odom, InPDUM San Diego
Uhuru Shule–San Diego’s Virtual Freedom School
San Diego InPDUM demands Black Community Control of Schools! In early March, African families in San Diego were met with deeply unorganized and confusing updates regarding local school district responses to the COVID-19 crisis. By Friday March 13th, all the public schools had been shut down, at first for two weeks and then for a month. Eventually, parents were notified that the public schools in the San Diego-area would be closed for the rest of the academic year.
San Diego Unified School District has notified the public that it is shifting to distance education for the remainder of the academic year. Some educators predict that closures could extend through the calendar year.
As with all aspects of the COVID-19 crisis, this directly impacts the lives of African children and African families in San Diego.
Africans comprise less than 7% of San Diego city. In Southeast San Diego, the historical African community, Africans comprise about 13% of the population. Conversely, African children comprise as many as one-third of the public schools in Southeast San Diego, second only to Latinx children.
The administration of public education, therefore, is a material struggle for Africans in San Diego. For over fifty years, Africans have fought to build dual and contending power through education in San Diego. Currently, InPDUM San Diego members Kwaku Abdullah and Abena Abdullah operate Beta Selam Academy (BSA), the only African-centered school in San Diego. Other InPDUM members and volunteers such as, Muambi Tangu, Parrish Davis, Marquis Jefferson, and Denzel, assist in the administration of BSA.
InPDUM San Diego understands the importance of public education as a terrain of struggle and demands free compulsory and comprehensive education for all Africans in San Diego. We demand Black community control over the schools that service the African community.
For this reason, in response to the contradictions of public education that the COVID-19 crisis has exposed, Africans in San Diego have waged the People’s War by creating an African-centered virtual curriculum for parents abruptly forced into home-schooling. InPDUM San Diego has named this virtual curriculum Uhuru Shule, KiSwahili for Freedom School.
Uhuru Shule’s curriculum is still growing–new content is being added daily. It is designed as an eight-week program but people can take it at their own pace. There are three disciplines:
- History, Literature and Social Studies
- Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics
- Physical Education.
This curriculum includes video lectures, writing prompts, research assignments, and sciences exercises. Constructed as a multilevel curriculum, one of the many purposes of Uhuru Shule is to keep the children motivated about learning and to teach self-determination to African families. The organizers of the curriculum are in the process of organizing virtual field trips and art classes.
A Long History of Educational Activism
Uhuru Shule is the brainchild of InPDUM San Diego member Maisha I. Kudumu. Also the Secretary of InPDUM’s Africans Charge Genocide campaign, Kudumu responded to the school closures with action. Within days of the school closure announcement, Kudumu crafted the proposal and outline for Uhuru Shule.
Kudumu’s leadership on this issue was dynamic but not unprecedented. The mother of two children, Kudumu takes primary and secondary education seriously. Kudumu holds a Bachelor’s degree in English literature and is in the process of completing a Master’s degree in Counseling. Kudumu also operates a doula service for African women. This moment requires all Africans to give their skills to the service and development of the African nation. Kudumu has heeded that call.
Historically, InPDUM is an organization that has brought many Africans back into political life. With Uhuru Shule, Kudumu embraces her family’s contributions to education and Black Power in San Diego.
In the early 1960s, Maisha’s father Walter Kudumu joined the Afro-American Association in San Diego. The Afro-American Association placed emphasis on education and many of its members were teachers and students.
Maisha’s mother, also named Maisha Kudmu, operated the School of Afroamerican Culture in San Diego and was a leader at San Diego State’s Black Student Union.
In the early 1970s, Kudumus outlined the plans for an African-centered college in San Diego, the Institute of Afroamerican Studies (IAS). The IAS established partnerships with undergraduate and graduate programs.
It is also through Walter Kudumu’s efforts that the Educational Cultural Complex (ECC), a continuing education center and a satellite of San Diego City College in Southeast San Diego, was established.
In 1989, the Kudumus established the Center for Parent Involvement in Education (CPIE) to combat the crisis of education in San Diego’s African community. CPIE’s mission was “to inform, inspire, and empower parents for effective participation in the education of their children and to promote excellence in education.” They held workshops that promoted parent-leadership as well as positive self-image and confidence in African children and other oppressed people.
African Internationalism Leads the Way
In 1991, InPDUM was organized by the African People’s Socialist Party to defend the African community from the counterinsurgency’s onslaught. InPDUM has since moved from a defensive to an offensive position in its struggle for African liberation.
As with Beta Selam Academy, Uhuru Shule arms the African working class with African Internationalism in the struggle for educational justice in San Diego. African Internationalism separates Uhuru Shule from all other distance learning curriculums being constructed at this moment. African Internationalism is the theory of the African working class. African internationalism is grounded in a dialectical and historical materialism. It sees the material world as knowable and changeable. Dialectical materialism demands not only theory but also practice. Uhuru shule aims to teach students to know the world and change the world.
COVID-19 has exposed the contradictions of the colonial education system. Uhuru Shule aims to build dual and contending power and move from Africans in San Diego from a reactive position to a proactive position. Uhuru Shule arms African families with the artillery needed to be self-reliant and prepared for what is to come.
Click here to access the Uhuru Shule Virtual Freedom School.