Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Keep That Fire Burning: Freedom Rides, Save Our Schools March and National Call to Action

We've come a long way since the days when the first students courageously integrated America's public schools after Brown v. Board of Education struck down "separate but equal."  Still, as we celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Freedom Rides, the abhorrent state of our public schools denies our youth their most basic civil right - access to quality education.

Freedom Riders for Justice in Education at the National
Civil Rights Museum in Montgomery, AL
 Recently, New Orleans Liberation Academy students and teachers participated in the Freedom Rides for Justice in Education, a bus trip with other youth and adult allies from New Orleans to Washington D.C. for the Save Our Schools March and National Call to Action with visits to Civil Rights landmarks and conversations with some of the original freedom riders along the way. For the ride, we were joined by youth and adults representing Rethink: Kids Rethink New Orleans Schools, Fyre Youth Squad, People's Institute for Survival and Beyond, Students at the Center, The Porch Cultural Organization and Center, Parents Organizing Network and the Plessy and Furgeson Foundation.

Qasim & Anthony at the National Civil Rights Museum in Montgomery, AL
CLICK HERE for more photos from National Civil Rights Museum.
 While in Washington D.C. at the Save Our Schools Conference, New Orleans Liberation Academy student Anthony Johnson participated on a panel facilitated by our friend Scott Nine, Executive Director of the Institute for Democratic Education in America (IDEA). Below are a couple clips of Anthony on that panel.

Like Anthony said, lets "keep that fire burning!"

Friday, August 5, 2011

Young Leaders Summer Street Festival of Learning

"If I had a magic wand, what change would I bring to my community?"

This is the question New Orleans Liberation Academy students and teachers participating in ATD Fourth World Movement - New Orleans "Young Leaders Training" explored together with young leaders from organizations and communities across the city including representatives of People's Institute for Survival and Beyond, Students at the Center and more.

We looked at issues of extreme poverty and its effects on the youngest, and most vulnerable in our communities. We further developed our understandings of education as a human right. We learned effective strategies for listening to each other and developing solutions to the challenges we face as individuals and members of our communities. Eventually we all realized that the changes we want to bring to our community don't require a magic wand at all, but rather just a commitment to organizing collectively for the goals we want to achieve.

This initial organizing resulted in the Summer Street Festival of Learning at the 7th Ward Neighborhood Center every Thursday, Friday and Saturday for 3 weeks in a row in July/August. The Summer Street Festival of Learning has featured learning activities, games and more for children, youth and adults in the neighborhood including juggling, painting, music, reading, rocket science, resume writing, computer literacy, dance and more.
The third and final week of the Summer Street Festival of Learning kicked off yesterday! Join us on Saturday August 6th from 4:00-7:00pm where the children and youth will display and present what they've created and learned during the three weeks and for the whole neighborhood to come out and see it. It will be a mix of kids, teenagers, adults, people who know us and hopefully some who have been wondering what we've been doing for the past weeks. We'll be doing capoeira, painting a mural, eating good food, listening to music and watching a dance performance by some of the kids. It should be lots of fun!

Community Stories - A People's History

What is the people's history of the Lower 9th Ward? What can youth learn from the elders of our neighborhood? What can the elders learn from the youth?

On a hot day this summer, New Orleans Liberation Academy students spent their Saturday at the Sankofa Farmers Market on the corner of Saint Claude and Caffin conducting oral histories of Lower 9th Ward natives and community elders. The students learned about the history of the community and given the opportunity to view its current challenges through the multiple perspectives of all those who participated in the interviews. We plan to compile these histories, collect more, and further develop research skills while creating a "history book of our own."

This project was in partnership with the Backyard Gardeners Network and supported by volunteers from ENGAGE University.

Guerrilla Garden

This summer we've been learning about gardening, growing food, and the importance of community by maintaining a plot at the Guerrilla Garden, a project of the Backyard Gardeners Network.

We didn't start with much, just a small patch of dirt and some seeds. We've learned that a little hard work, patience, care, persistence and dedication will pay off. Now we've got some of the most delicious yellow squash, basil, and more. Stop by and see us in the garden at the corner of Chartres and Charbonette.

Lower 9th Ward Street Library

"My alma mater was books, a good library.... I could spend the rest of my life reading, just satisfying my curiosity."

Every Friday from 5:30-7:30 at the Guerrilla Garden.
Corner of Chartes and Charbonette.
For the past 6 weeks, in collaboration with ATD 4th World Movement, Judes Grove and the Backyard Gardeners Network, New Orleans Liberation Academy has facilitated the Lower 9th Ward Street Library every Friday evening. Street Library is an attempt to bring literacy, story-telling and a sense of community directly to the young people of the Lower 9th Ward, wherever they are at.

A volunteer-run weekly space for children and youth from as young as 2 or 3 to as old as 17, Street Library provides a space for reading, writing, creating, experimenting and sharing for an average of 12-15 neighborhood children and youth. The format is simple: colorful blankets, childrens books, art supplies and caring adults to read with in a transparent public space. Transformational.

Dr. Samori Camara reading a biography of
Dr. George Washington Carver

In the past weeks, some examples of what we have done includes hosting children's book authors, heard and wrote poetry about who we are, we fingerpainted, we experimented with bubbles and we read lots and lots of books. For National Black Agriculture Awareness week we were joined by Dr. Samori Camara, founder and director of Kamali Academy, an Afrikan-centered Home School program across the river on the West Bank as we celebrated the life and contributions of Dr. George Washington Carver. Every week its something new!

Reading, arts and crafts and more!
Street Library is always seeking volunteers and donations of children's books or art supplies. If you can help, please contact us or stop by the Street Library every Friday evening at 5:30.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Rethinking New Orleans Schools Through Film and Dance

Watch this creative expression of how poor eating habit's, lack of exercise/ physical activity, as well as sub-par cafeteria food options lead a student becoming one of the living dead. Allies of New Orleans Liberation Academy, Kids Rethink New Orleans Schools, used some of the lesson learned in their elective courses (Youtube, dance, and visual arts) over the course of their seven week summer program to produce this short film/ music video. The Rethinker's incorporated  Dr. Toni Yancey exercise startagey  called "Instant Recess,"  a ten minute interactive workout that can be before performed at a students desk, to provide an example of how to combat the health related issue associated with unhealthy eating and exercise cultures in New Orleans schools.