"Our Leaders Are Us": Harlem Student Activists Inspire Each Other
On May 7, Teachers College hosted the "Our Leaders Are Us: Youth Activism in Social Movements" symposium with ninth graders and their teachers from Region 10 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education. The event, organized by Professors V.P. Franklin, Anand Marri, Denise Ross, Amy Stuart Wells, and Erica Walker and TC students, explored the role of young people in the civil rights movement as well as how to galvanize young people to become activists in their own communities. In partnership with the Region 10 superintendent Lucille Swarns and instructional superintendent Clarisse Brooks, the event was the culmination of three after-school workshops where TC students discussed readings from participants from the civil rights movement and addressed issues students face in their own schools.
"We thought it was important that TC faculty and students go out to schools and conduct workshops," said Erica Walker, Assistant Professor of Mathematics and one of the organizers of the event, "to provide high school students with a college experience." Thanks to the efforts of Vice President of Academic Affairs and Dean Darlyne Bailey and the Harlem Educational Alliance, the symposium proved to be a rousing success with a morning panel discussion and breakout sessions throughout the College in the afternoon.
Fifteen TC students worked with over 100 high school students throughout Harlem examining the creative strategies that students used in the civil rights movement. During the event, leaders from the Abyssinian Development Corporation, Harlem YMCA, and the Center for Law and Social Justice at Medgar Evers College spoke about the importance of youth activism in New York City. "I don't see young people being as involved today," noted Walker, "but I think its fitting that a commemoration of Brown v. Board of Education seeks to address young people directly and attempt to help them think about how to advocate for themselves and to advocate changes in issues which directly affect them."
"Our Leaders Are Us" is one of many initiatives created by Bailey to strengthen the alliance between Region 10 and Teachers College. Both TC students and Region 10 teachers expressed their desire to continue working together. "I would like to see this as a start of an ongoing collaboration between students and teachers," said Christina Morado, an Ed.M. candidate in Social Studies and facilitator at A. Philip Randolph High School. For many of the facilitators it was an exceptional opportunity to work in the classroom again and collaborate with teachers in their communities.
Walker would like to see the project expand its scope to include a math, science, and humanities curriculum as well as a social justice component. She said, "I hope we continue to have this type of interdisciplinary work and continue to provide a service to our neighboring schools."
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