Stephen Hunter Johnson
The Miami Times, 05-27- 2015
Below is a letter — edited for space — written by Stephen Hunter Johnson, chair of the Black Affairs Advisory Board, sent to Miami-Dade School Superintendent Alberto Carvalho.
Dear Superintendent Carvalho:
The Miami-Dade County Black Affairs Advisory Board is very interested in discussing the development and implementation of a bilingual educational curriculum for all students.
By way of background, on Saturday, January 31, 2015, the Miami-Dade Black Affairs Advisory Board sponsored a “Village Dialogue: An Invitation from the Afro-Cuban Community.” As a result of that meeting, and further discussions, it has become increasingly clear that the ability to speak more than one language — particularly fluency in Spanish and English — is an economic advantage in South Florida as a region, but particularly in Miami-Dade County, the aptly named gateway to the Americas.
Miami-Dade County’s 2.5 million residents represent a spectrum of cultural, ethnic and racial identities. Our diversity means that Miami-Dade County is one of a few emerging global economic centers. Businesses and business people from around the world travel here for work and for play. Because Miami-Dade County is truly an international destination, it is imperative that our children — all of our children — are provided with the proper tools to succeed and thrive.
It is with this in mind that we ask Miami-Dade County Public Schools to develop and implement a true bilingual curriculum so that all of our children are fully fluent and truly bilingual by graduation. To accomplish this, it is necessary that children be exposed to bilingual education as early as possible, but absolutely in grades K-4. It is our belief that students who graduate without second-language skills are at a distinct disadvantage which places them in the precarious position of not being able to qualify for even menial positions here in Miami-Dade.
We believe that this forces many of our children to abandon their home in search of opportunities in other areas, depriving us of the talents of some of our best and brightest. We also believe that this requirement — especially in view of the recent developments aimed at restoring diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba, along with Miami’s emergence as the epicenter of Latin American business and investments — sends a strong message about the viability and survival skills of our students. Without these skills, some of our students are disadvantaged, destined for failure and, more importantly, unable to compete on a global level.
We therefore ask for a formal meeting as soon as possible with you to discuss Miami-Dade Public School’s institution of bilingual education as part of the curriculum taught in our district.
Stephen Hunter Johnson, chair
Black Affairs Advisory Board