By Zenobia Jeffries & Araz Hachadourian
January 16, 2017
Section on Michigan: “To outsiders like Donald Trump, Detroit is like “an urban dystopia of poverty, crime, and blight.” But to Detroiters and those committed to the city’s revitalization, it’s a city full of promise—with the notable exception of its school system. Following multiple state takeovers, the largest school district in Michigan continues to suffer teacher layoffs, crowded classrooms, and financial mismanagement. And longtime residents and activists have had enough, turning to a legacy of the civil rights movement’s Freedom Schools to serve their children.
In February, parent Aliya Moore’s call to boycott schools on Count Day—when the state uses student attendance to calculate per-pupil funding—prompted a local group, Detroiters Resisting Emergency Management, to reimagine education for Detroit schoolchildren and launch the Detroit Independent Freedom Schools Movement.
By Shea Howell
January 2, 2017
This year the first day of 2017 was also the last day of Kwanzaa, Imani, the affirmation of faith. Over 200 people gathered at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History to share in celebration of the day. Young people with the Detroit Independent Freedom School Movement joined with parents, teachers, friends, artists, and activists to emphasize our faith in one another and our capacity to create a better city and a better world.
It was a good way to begin this new year. The Al Nur Drum and Dance Company set the energy for the event as people gathered to light the Kwanzaa candles. Each candle calls forth a value that will be important for us to remember as we face the choices of the coming days. Unity, Self Determination, Collective Work & Responsibility, Cooperative Economics, Purpose, Creativity, and Faith are critical guideposts to judge our actions.
By Shea Howell
November 28, 2016
With Donald Trump’s pick of Betsy DeVos to head the US Department of Education, the country is in store for a direct assault on public education. This is not hyperbole. Betsy DeVos has been the main architect of the systematic destruction of Detroit Public Schools and all those schools in Michigan serving poor, urban, black and brown children.
Devos is widely acknowledged as the “main driver of the entire state’s school overhaul.” In Detroit this “overhaul” has been a disaster. For most of her adult life Betsy DeVos has pushed an extremist, right wing corporate agenda to privatize schools, attack unions and promote conservative values.
By Shea Howell
October 31, 2016
About 200 people attended the community conversation on the crisis in education hosted this week-end at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History. The event was organized by the Detroit Independent Freedom School initiative. It was a gathering marked by love, hope and righteous anger.
The program opened with the call to remember, “Education is about becoming the best human being you can possibly become.” Young people took center stage to frame the reality of what they face on a daily basis. Some of what they talked about was all too familiar to those of us who have witnessed the destruction of public education. They explained how they saw programs cut back, classes cancelled, basic courses eliminated, and teachers struggling to teach subjects for which they were not prepared.
On a deeper level, the young people reflected on the assaults on their sense of possibilities. One young woman talked about her desire to be challenged and her disappointment at being in a system where “we are basically robots.” Another asked, “How is anybody supposed to grow in an environment that just puts them down?” They talked of hopes to be journalists, facing school without English teachers, dreams of being a cardiologist while being harassed by attendance offices, pushing them toward the juvenile system.