I had to get my real multicultural education on the down low, outside of classes like Mr. Anderson's. I went to Garfield High School, located in Seattle's historically African American neighborhood, the Central District. Garfield has been known for many years as Seattle's "black high school," and back in the 1970s there was a strong Black Panther Party presence both in the neighborhood and in the school itself. Garfield, always a basketball powerhouse, also boasts a rich connection to African American culture and music, with names like Quincy Jones and Jimi Hendrix still haunting the hallways.
By the time I got there in the late 1980s, Garfield had become a flagship for the Seattle Public Schools. It housed the district's AP program, maintained a world-renowned jazz band, was the district's science magnet high school, and provided a model of Seattle's desegregation busing system (of which I was a part). Totaling around 1,600 students, Garfield's student body hovered at about 50 percent African American and 50 percent white, with a few Latinos and Asian Americans like myself sprinkled in.
Given Garfield's history, position in the community, and commitment to racially integrated education, you might think that real multicultural education took place in most classes. Sadly, it didn't. There was one teacher, Mr. Davis, who taught two "secret" classes at my school: one section of Harlem Renaissance and one section of African Studies.
To get into Mr. Davis' classes, you first had to learn (by word of mouth) the true content of his classes, which were listed plainly in the schedule as Language Arts 10b and Social Studies elective. Second you had to convince your counselor that yes, you really did want to be in Mr. Davis' class, that yes, you really knew what you were getting into.
For the first time in my schooling experience, I was one of only two non-African American students in a class. In Mr. Davis' classes we looked at the politics of Blackness through the poetry and literature of the Harlem Renaissance and hashed through segregation, desegregation, and African American identity in U.S. history. We read about how Greek civilization was built upon a legacy of knowledge that had already existed in Egypt. And then we learned that Egypt wasn't really "Egypt." From an African-centric standpoint it was actually called Kemet, with its own rich cultural worldview, symbolism, and creation stories.