Eighty-seven high school students from across Massachusetts recently attended the first annual Youth Summit on Race, Class and Education, organized by Clark’s Jacob Hiatt Center for Urban Education.
For six hours, high school students focused on the topic of how race and class shapes the educational experiences of young people across the nation. The program involved activists, educators, and scholars who approached the topic through interactive activities, performances and panels that encouraged further reflection.
Lulama Moyo’16 performed “Clicking Tongues,” a spoken word poem about ignorance, intolerance and empowerment. Moyo studies international development and social change and communications. Originally from Zimbabwe, she moved to Maine when she was a pre-teen and experienced a great deal of adversity being one the few young people of color growing up in rural Maine.
Master’s candidates Brady Burton M.A.T. ’14, Natasha Cochran M.A.T. ’14, and Noah Campbell M.A.T. ’14 led an activity that focused on race and class in the news, and participated in discussions with professors from the Education Department. Nationally known scholar Gloria Ladson-Billings, author of “Beyond the Big House: African American Educators on Teacher Education” and “The Dreamkeepers: Successful Teachers of African American Children, also addressed attendees.
The highlight of the Summit, according to participants, was a panel discussion, “Looking Back and Moving Forward,” featuring award-winning radio DJ, poet and writer Alysia Cosby; professor and curriculum developer Andrew Habana Hafner, Ed.D.; and youth activist, DJ, photographer, and lecturer Carlos REC McBride. The panelists shared details of their personal struggles with race, class and self-identity and gave advice on how to develop confidence and learn to appreciate who you are. “You have to decide who you really are…and decide to stay focused and not to let anyone else’s labels hinder you from doing what you really need to do for you,” said Cosby.
Visiting assistant professor Raphael Rogers, who organized the event, said he believed the Summit was a success. “Many students were open to sharing their personal experiences with race and class in their schools” and did so “in a respectful and thoughtful manner” he said. “Both the students and the teachers had such positive responses to the panelists; they provided attendees with insight, information and inspiration.” An attendee from Amherst Regional High School anonymously reported, “I thought that the panel knocked the ball out of the park for me, definitely a highlight. I also thought it was awesome to hear about how hip hop can fit into education.”
A student from Renaissance High School in Springfield wrote, “The three speakers in the educator panel were inspirational and real. The one woman who spoke was my favorite speaker. She delved into issues of race and diversity and self-identity in a way that let me know she really got it. She has the same thoughts and struggles I do.”
The Summit was followed by a public address, the Lee Gurel’48 Lecture on Education, “Stakes is High: Educating New Century Students,” by Ladson-Billings. Related links: http://news.clarku.edu/news/2013/12/10/gurel-lecturer-span-cultural-divide-to-teach-new-century-students/ A reflection by Worcester Magazine’s Janice Harvey, a teacher who attended the Summit along with 10 North High students: http://worcestermag.com/2013/12/12/scaling-summit-spoken-word/19216