Thursday, September 15, 2011

Multiple Lines of Defense

Last Friday I had the opportunity to go on a boat tour with the Holy Cross Neighborhood Association, the Lower Ninth Ward Center for Sustainable Engagement and Development (CSED), the Gulf Restoration Network, and other local community leaders.

It was my first time ever on a boat. At first it was a little scary, but I had a great time.

CLICK HERE for more pictures of Bayou Bienvenue, the Mississippi
River Gulf Outlet (MR-GO) and Lake Borgne from the Multiple Lines
of Defense Boat Tour. Photos courtesy of Sarah DeBacher.

The purpose of the trip was to highlight the Multiple Lines of Defense Strategy... not just relying on the levees to protect us. The strategy works on the premise that coastal Louisiana must be protected from storms and flooding by both man-made features, such as levees, and by the natural coastal wetland buffer along the Louisiana coast. Levees alone will not work.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Save Our Schools

Some clips of me speaking at the Save Our Schools conference in Washington D.C.

CLICK HERE for more about our trip to Washington D.C., Freedom Rides for Justice in Education and the Save Our Schools March and National Call to Action.

"Keep that fire burning, because if we do they can't touch us. We're too hot!"

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

"The future belongs to those who prepare for it today" - Malcolm X

On May 19th 2011, Malcolm X’s birthday my teachers and I went to an event hosted by Neighborhood Unity. We arrived kind of late, but made it just in time to watch a documentary on the life of Malcolm X. The documentary talked about the key points in Malcolm’s life, but left out some other points (important ones).  The documentary was about an hour long. After we watched the documentary the host gave us the opportunity to speak about the film we just viewed. 

The conversation went from being about Malcolm X to white people to education in New Orleans and back to Malcolm X.  I enjoyed hearing the open discussion on the educational topic being a 16 year old teenager living in the Lower 9th Ward where there is only one school.  I felt like I had a part in this meeting.

The small room was so emotional I felt empowered by hearing the stories others had to share. Two speakers stood out the most to me.  First, this young lady who had so much passion and almost broke down and cried talking about the state of public schools in New Orleans, but she didn’t.  The second one that stood out to me was my teacher Qasim who got up toward the end of the open discussion and spoke on the need for solidarity and unity in struggle.  I was the last to speak, which meant I didn’t have that much time and I spoke for less then two minutes, and was then cut off because lack of time.

After sitting down some guy walked in I heard a lot of noises and look over by the door some random guy for no reason what so ever (hint hint) came in the room and jump on the host and beat him up. His mission was to disempower us but he only made us more empowered to continue the event.

After we settled down another speaker got up and spoke some poetry.  The last speaker got up with his students and he talked about the school he has started on the West Bank of New Orleans, in Algiers. He spoke for about an hour, then it was over.  

I went back home feeling both mad and empowered because of the turns of events that had happened and the fact that most of the older men was constantly pointing fingers at white people for disempowering them which may or may not be true, but personally I feel that the only person who can disempowered you is yourself after awhile.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Street Library Reflections

On May 7th I had the opportunity to volunteer at the Street Library in the 7th Ward. The Street Library is a program of the Fourth World Movement.  Me, my teacher Kyle, and his son Jonah engaged in reading and fun activities with youth from 3-7 years old.  First we introduced ourselves, then the fun began.  I won’t lie, at first I was a little afraid to interact with them. I was more afraid of them then they were of me. But after a few minutes I made an effort and started looking for Waldo in a Where’s Waldo book with a little girl. We spotted the funny pictures of charters who look like Waldo, but wasn’t him. Then we made Mother’s Day candles with vivid colorful sand. After a while I was having fun too.  I let my inner kid show.  We made Mother’s Day cards that were pretty with stickers, glitter and other stuff as we waited for the candle wax to dry.  We  played tag for like 15 minutes and after they were good and tired we took them home to show their mothers their presents.

Looking back on my experience with the Street Library I found out that I’m good with kids and can be a good role model.  I didn’t like being around kids before.  I was always afraid of saying or doing the wrong thing and being a bad role model to them. Having a Street Library can benefit the community because it allows space and opportunity for diversity and different perspectives that can lead to what is most beneficial for the community.  Watching the kids interact with each other showed me that kids can teach and learn from one another in this type of environment.  On the other hand, in a regular school setting student aren’t empowered to teach and learn from each other because it usually assumed that teachers have all the knowledge and information and students have none.  The Street Library changes that.  My day volunteering at the Street Library was an amazing experience.

I hope to get one started in the Lower 9th Ward soon.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Book Review: No Homework and Recess All Day

No Homework and Recess All Day: How to Have Freedom and Democracy in Education By Jerry Mintz (2003)

Jerry Mintz been involved in the freedom democracy education movement for over 30 years now and started AERO (Alternative Education Resource Organization) for kids like me who seek more opportunities for real learning and a break away from the traditional educational system that is outdated and doesn’t work for so many.

No Homework and Recess All Day can be looked at as a guide to starting and maintaining a freedom school. In this book the author lists some helpful tips on maintaining a freedom school like having meetings with the students on issues that affect their education. These meetings often involve issues that might not have caught the teacher’s attention and the decisions often involve voting. For example, bullying that might be going on at the school for a period of time might cause the students to call a meeting and vote to set rules to prevent future bullying and to determine the punishment. In these schools, the students are involved in making every important decision.

This book also mentions resources and other schools that can be taken as model schools like Shaker Mountain, the Albany Free School and many more schools the author helped establish. Jerry Mintz uses personal experience to give the reader a better understanding of these schools and his theory that students deserve an education that is worthwhile in any subject of interest, not just math, reading, English, etc.

I like this book because it tells of personal encounters that Jerry Mintz had in starting his freedom school and helping start many other freedom schools. He tells of his trip to Soviet Union for the first schools festival of the Soviet Union in 1991. This opportunity allowed him to see other alternative schools and begin making connections around the world.

I recommend this book to anyone who wants to break away from the normal main stream of education that is stripping our youth of their right to be educated and more successful in life. Personally I am a 16 year old who has broken away from the public educational system and now being home schooled by several teachers and I know the problems my friends continue to face.  I am committed to being a part of making a changes in education.  No Homework and Recess All Day will be a great resource to us in making our own school in the Lower 9th Ward of New Orleans.