Riverhead teacher publishes book exploring teen perspectives on the Black experience in America

When Jamaal Boyce started teaching his class, “The Black Experience,” at Riverhead High School two years ago, the last thing on his mind was becoming a published author.

He was ultimately convinced to write a book about his new class by his wife and a friend, both of whom urged him to share the ideas with the world. His book, “Teenage Perspectives on The Black Experience in America,” was published last month.

In the 190-page book, Mr. Boyce describes how he created the course and brings readers into the classroom with the students who took his course last year.

He said that his goal with the book was to strengthen critical thinking and have readers understand that every issue has multiple perspectives.

“You get an insight on some of the questions and discussions that we had in the course,” he said. “I want people to think for themselves. That’s the whole premise of the book.”

While Mr. Boyce understands the need for testing in education, he feels that “schooling should allow for more free thought for our students.”

“I think education in America is all about indoctrination — where we’re indoctrinating these kids, we’re telling them what to believe, we’re telling them what to think and they really have no outlet to think differently,” he said.

The book is available digitally as well as in paperback or hardcover editions through book-selling websites, including Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Mr. Boyce has been a social studies and economics teacher in Riverhead for 20 years. The class — and the book — aims to “dispel the myth that all Black people have the same experience or the same history,” he said.

The 17 students currently enrolled in the course, with guidance from Mr. Boyce, discuss topics such as slavery, racism, stereotypes and more. Although he guides these discussions, he rarely shares his own opinion on most of the topics discussed in class.

“Unlike an African-American history class, what I do is I take Black experiences and I combine it with critical thinking,” Mr. Boyce said. “So, I’m not necessarily teaching to the kids. I’m more discussing it to people.”

The course was designed to be a free-thinking course, so there are no tests, and the students get to bring up topics that they want to discuss within the class. While the course was designed for juniors and seniors, some sophomores have been accepted into the class.

“You’re going to be challenged,” he said. “You can challenge back, but in the end nobody is right or wrong,” he said.  

Mr. Boyce wants to keep the class small because the discussions require an intimate setting.

“We’re here for them,” Mr. Boyce said of himself and his fellow teachers. “But we have no idea what they’re thinking because we never give them an outlet to voice what they’re thinking. That’s what my class does. It gives them an outlet to say what they think.”

Support for both the course and book has been overwhelming, he said.

“Riverhead should be proud that they allowed me to do this course because they took a risk,” he said. “They trusted in me that I would do the right thing, that I would not indoctrinate the students, so I thank the school district [and] I thank the community for the support.”

Mr. Boyce will be hosting a book signing at Riverhead’s East End Food Market on Saturday, March 18 from 9 to 11 a.m.

Another project that Mr. Boyce is working on is an investment education service called C.O.I.N. — which stands for community outreach investment network. 

Tapping into his network of experts in options trading, real estate and more, he hopes to educate students and community members about economics and investing. In the weeks ahead, Mr. Boyce said, he will be launching an investment and economics website.