The New Racism

Nothing's black and white at Millennium High School

Both Lamb and assistant principal Bill McMillian confirm that no one else at Millennium wanted to sponsor C.H.A.K.A.

Last fall, there was a group of former C.H.A.K.A. members who still wanted to dance. They wanted a new club. Some sort of dancing club.


Photo Illustrations by Jeff Newton

When Jill Bould, a young, white world affairs teacher, was asked to sponsor the group, the kids told her they wanted to do step dancing -- not the country-western kind, the African-American kind.

Bould agreed to be the club's sponsor, but under one condition: the kids do some sort of community service, say, work in a soup kitchen. The kids agreed.

Impact was created.

Soon there were about 35 members, some black, some Hispanic, some white. But a lot of the kids now wanted to do hip-hop dancing. Not step.

Bould told them hip-hop's not appropriate music for school -- even though, as she tells New Times, she doesn't listen to hip-hop music. She suggested jazz, but the kids didn't want to do jazz. They wanted to do hip-hop.

Ultimately, they did nothing. When the group was allowed to perform twice in January, it was to "shut them up," says Tiffeny Denman, the mother of one Impact member.

Senior Samone Powell and other members of Impact interviewed for this story say that the school's all-white dance line performs to music similar to what they wanted to use. (Minus the word "hell," obviously.) Adam Malick, the band director who oversees the dance line, declined to speak to New Times. Jill Bould wouldn't say much.

Millennium is clearly proud of its dance line. "Congratulations to our school dance line!!!" a link at the school's Web site says. "They took second place with scores of 95 at the Fiesta Bowl dance and flag competition."

There never has been information on the Web site about Impact.

And now the club no longer exists. Because the Impact members did not perform community service, Bould told New Times in December that she wouldn't sponsor the club again after this school year. No worries there -- the club was defunct by this month.

Some say it didn't have to be this way.

Ira Miles knows some of the kids in Impact because they were in C.H.A.K.A., too. "Most kids, in general, have faults. Especially when it comes to responsibility," he says. "Sometimes you've got to take the lead. Don't be frustrated. Show them how to do it."

Michael Mack, whose son and daughter belong to Impact, says, "There's no leadership. That group from the start was set up to fail."

That's not all Mack is upset about. He says there isn't enough black history and culture taught at the school.

Others agree.

"They don't teach us anything here," say Angel Hughes, a freshman who moved recently to Arizona from Detroit where, she says, she learned a lot more.

At issue: Black History Month, held each February.

"For Black History Month," says sophomore Ashlee Anderson, "all we do . . . is nothing."

Principal Sandra Haiflich says black history and culture are taught throughout the year. For instance, in early November, two English teachers at Millennium began their unit on the literature of the Harlem Renaissance. The unit lasted until winter break in December.

The juniors in these classes spent six weeks studying, for example, the novels of Zora-Neale Hurston or the poetry of Countee Cullen. The final projects they completed -- often collages or their own poetry -- hung on the walls of Millennium High. Principal Haiflich says, "These are just two examples of instructional units used by teachers to address cultural diversity."

A spokesman for the Arizona Department of Education says there is no mandate for the hours, days or weeks a school spends on black history or culture. However, some black figures, most prominently Martin Luther King, must be incorporated into a school's curriculum.

In any case, the charge that black history and culture are ignored in a school's curriculum is nothing new. Oscar Tillman, president of Maricopa County's NAACP, hears parents complain of it often. Neal Lester, professor of African-American studies at Arizona State University, says when students come in, unfamiliar with black literature, "I'm not surprised. Just disappointed."

But what really disappoints Michael Mack, what brought him to New Times in the first place, has nothing to do with black history or even hip-hop. It has everything to do with basketball. Mack says his son and other kids were kept off the team because they're black.

Tim Butler has been the head coach of Millennium's basketball program for four years. In that time, he has often given black players the opportunity to play in high-profile roles, particularly on the varsity team. But last October, no black students made the boys' jayvee basketball team. So Michael Mack, whose son tried out, says he met head coach Tim Butler one day at Millennium before he went to practice.

Butler refused to speak with New Times. Mack's son talked, but asked that his name not be used, as did four other minority students -- all of whom wonder if they were cut because of the color of their skin.

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