There's still good reason to honor Black History Month

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It's Black History Month, and hats off to those South Floridians who are making Carter G. Woodson proud. For those who may not remember, or simply don't know, Woodson was the historian who in 1926 declared the second week of February to be "Negro History Week."

Wodson spent his life working to educate all people about the contributions made by Black men and women. Black History Month is his legacy, but the dream of incorporating it into mainstream American history remains a work in progress.

The late Gov. Lawton Chiles tried to do his part to make Woodson's legacy a reality in Florida. In 1994 he signed a law to ensure Black history be taught in public schools "The history of African-Americans must not be minimized or trivialized," he said after signing the bill into law.

Unfortunately, black history remains trivialized. In 2009, the Florida Task Force on African American History criticized the token efforts of incorporating black history into public school lessons. The Inter-Civic Council of the Southern Christian Leadership Council in Tallahassee, got so frustrated that they filed a complaint with the state Attorney General's Office — twice.

Fast forward to today where the Village Academy in Delray Beach found a way for students to learn lessons that have been largely omitted from history texts and classroom discussions. Staff and volunteers at the school converted a portable classroom into a musuem.

The exhibits include video documentaries, oral histories from guest speakers and artifacts donated from the Spady Museum or from the closets of teachers.

By bringing the history to life, students understand that peanut butter might not exist if not for George Washington Carver, or that local black teachers might not have gotten the same pay as whites when they did if not for C. Spencer Pompey, a longtime Delray Beach educator.

It's also a treat for youngsters to learn how their parents and grandparents had to live with such artifacts as the straightening comb, washing board, vinyl record, or spit cup, an important personal device before indoor plumbing became affordable and readily avaiable.

The museum seems to be working as an educational tool. A group of fourth graders have already told Kyra T. Campbell, the first grade teacher who came up with the idea that they planned to write papers on what they've learned during Black History Month.

"The reactions vary from surprise to amazement," she said. "If they walk away from the experience with something then I'm happy about it."

In Broward County, Don Mizell is a scion of black history. He had no choice.

His uncle, Dr.Von D. Mizell, was one of only a handful of black doctors, and the first surgeon, in South Florida. In 1938, he and another black physician, Dr. James Sistrunk, to build Provident Hospital, the county's black hospital that would endure for almost 40 years.

Dr. Mizell also founded the Broward County chapter of the NAACP, masterminding the beach "wade-ins" as a way to desegregate Fort Lauderdale's white-only beaches and improve conditions at the old "Colored Beach," which is now John U. Lloyd State Park in Dania Beach.

Young Don heard all the stories and more, but instead of following in his uncle's footsteps, he left Fort Lauderdale to earn a law degree from Harvard University and then moved to California where he became a producer in the music industry.

He won a Grammy for "Album of the Year," and also a coveted NAACP Image Award for Community Service for his work with Stevie Wonder on the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Holiday. In 2010, Don Mizell decided to return to home to promote his uncle's legacy.

Since then he's talked to individuals, community groups and historical societies about Dr. Mizell's achievments and launched a petition drive at drmizellbeach.org in hopes of building a groundswell of support to rename John U. Lloyd State Park in his uncle's honor.

"I'm proud of my uncle," Don Mizell said. "But it goes beyond that. This guy was just superbad. Looking at it objectively, I just think his accomplishments are worthy."

After 88 years, there's still value in Black History Month. Woodson would be pleased.

Doug Lyons can be reached at 954 356-4638 or by email at dlyons@sun-sentinel.com., or on Twitter @douginflorida

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Andy Green, the opinion editor, has taken the "know a little bit about everything" approach in his time at The Sun. He was the city/state editor before coming to the editorial board, and prior to that he covered the State House and Baltimore County government.

Tricia Bishop, the deputy editorial page editor, was a reporter in the business and metro sections covering biotechnology, education and city and federal courts prior to joining the board.

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Harder high school tests [Poll]

Starting next year, 9th- and 10th-grade students in Maryland will have to pass English and algebra tests tied to the Common Core curriculum to graduate. Should the switch to harder exams be delayed, as some have suggested?

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