http://www.louisianaweekly.com/weekly/news/articlegate.pl?20070730c Honor Student who was denied Black History Month speech gets last word at graduation, he vows to impact America By Hazel Trice Edney, NNPA Editor-in-Chief July 30, 2007 WASHINGTON (NNPA) - Carl Noldon had a dream to give a speech he had written for Black History month last February. In it, he accused America's public schools of denying Black children in depth teachings of their own history. Though the officials at the Bronx High School for the Visual Arts in New York denied him that opportunity amidst controversy over the strong contents of his speech, Noldon never gave up hope. Now, before throngs of well-wishers, the honor student has realized his dream. Having excelled as valedictorian of his graduating class, Noldon stood before an audience of school officials, families and his classmates late last month and finally delivered the message for which he had fought. "Often we hear of the degrading statistics that cause a day like today to be bitter sweet. According to the book Solutions For Black America by educational consultant Jawanza Kunjufu, only two years ago, in 2004, 63 percent of Black fourth-grade students were below grade level in reading, 61 percent of 8th-grade Black students were below grade level in math," he said. "Finally, last year, according to Dr. Kunjufu, 13 percent of all Black youth between the ages of 16 and 24 had not earned a high school diploma or a G.E.D. This is a day of celebration. Graduation is a beautiful thing. It is indeed a day for us to realize how fortunate we are and to move ahead with the fulfillment of our highest dreams - and that we will do. But hearing these statistics, if I were to stand before you and say that everything is great just because we are graduating, then that would lack integrity. Please listen and learn from my story." The 17-year-old, who has been reared by his mother, Anna Noldon, and grandmother, Dorothy Noldon, told how he turned his life around in a nation that often denigrates Black males his age and dooms them to failure. Before an audience that responded with two standing ovations, he spoke what many Black males in America have yet to learn. "You see, the truth is that once upon a time I might have become one of those statistics. Caught in a web of ignorance of my roots and the greatness of my ancestry I too suffered and nearly perished at the systems that would keep from each one of us the total truth of the magnificence and genius of the people of Africa from whence my ancestors came," he said. "My Uncle Vincent played a big role in my change because of his introduction of what is called 'the truth' to me...Before that I thought that being Black meant being stupid and inferior. In fact, the teachers that I had before I came to visual arts added to this inferiority complex, because they didn't teach me about the great Black civilizations and the achievements of them. The curriculum had a western basis, a Euro American basis, so I merely studied and did work on that basis, but not a basis that connects to my ancestral values. I came to realize that I had to care about my own life, and I had to care about my own health and education. But on a deeper level, I had to love being who and what I am because if I didn't, that would dishonor my African ancestors." After two rousing standing ovations, Noldon joined his classmates in receiving, not only his high school diploma, but also a string of other academic and achievement awards. Since his story was first publicized by the NNPA News Service last May, Noldon's sentiments about the impact of Black History on Black students have been reaffirmed by educational experts around the country. "Those schools that offer an afro-centric curriculum saw a 30 percent increase in their test scores," says educator and author Jawanza Kunjufu in an emailed response to Noldon's story. "Second, students no longer associate being smart with acting white. Last, it reduces disciplinary problems." Also, editors at Fisk University's Urban Education Journal having read the NNPA story, offered to consider the speech for publication. George York, principal of the high school, praised Noldon in an interview in May, calling him "one of the brightest and best." But York declined to say specifically why he had initially refused to allow Noldon to give the speech. Last week, Noldon's mother, Anna, responded by saying, "Wow," when asked her response to her son having earned the valedictory address and finally having done the speech. "It was terrific. Words can't explain it. I'm just proud of him," she says. Noldon vows he has only begun his campaign for more inclusive and diverse curricula in America's public schools. As he heads to the City College in Manhattan this fall, he yet has another dream. "I want to reveal how racism, Eurocentrism, White supremacy and colonialism, how these elements affect the education of the Black people of the world and other non-whites," he says in an interview. "Because I believe that Black children across this nation are being miseducated in the way that I was, I have a goal of mixing Black studies with physics, film, psychology, science, mathematics, as well as other disciplines." He says he will also continue to study the works of Black educational scholars, such as Kunjufu, **** Gregory, Cornell West, and Michael Eric Dyson, who he recently met at a book signing. And, he says, he will push to diversify Eurocentric education wherever he goes. "It will be a challenging mission. But, I will not let college put fear into me," he said in his speech. "The Eurocentric professors and teachers love to teach about how wonderful the Greeks were and their minds as well as other Europeans. But do they teach that the Greeks got a lot of their knowledge from the African Egyptians?.. I will not fear them! I encourage you just as well to change the world by seeking truth and taking stands...What will you do? Who are your heroes? What will you take a stand for that will impact the lives of others? I encourage you to also choose your mission and stick to it... My goal, my dream is to now give back to others what has been given to me."