Announcing Juneteenth Freedom Academy for EDUCATORS

23 06 2011

Juneteenth Freedom Academy Summer Intensive for Educators: 

Rituals for Transformative Presence

August 8-12, 2011

Durham, NC

because you were that genius kid in the back of the room looking out the window.  because you were that young Malcolm X that the teacher wasn’t ready for. because you were that Charlotte Hawkins Brown making your own school in yards and parlors. because you have always known that where ever you are learning is possible.  because you don’t remember much of 10th grade biology except that the teacher seemed to really listen to really make it accessible even when you didn’t care.  because there was something that happened in the classroom that made you want to come back and fix it, come back and honor it, come back and create a classroom of your own.  because you are here for the kids, not for the standards and obviously not for the money.  because you remember every day that people’s movement in the US and in the world have been led by students. because you know that the place where nerds meet gang members is the place where the Black Panther Party was born, and that meeting could be reconvened in any classroom any day now.   because it’s still about that moment when you learn something new and the students realize that they are teachers already, and leaders and a force in the universe that cannot be stopped.

Because your presence is a catalyst, because your students are a prophecy.  Because June Jordan said it best… “we are the ones we’ve been waiting for.”

The Premise:

Every social justice artist and genius and their brilliant mama is publishing a curriculum, hoping to reach the students you work with, without ever seeing their faces.  And sometimes the content is brilliant.  But most educational institutions, including public schools, after school programs, independent schools, community colleges and four-year colleges and graduate programs already have their own mandatory or chosen content.  So…

This course acknowledges what has the most influence on students while they are in the classroom, the people who are there, the educators and each other and the energy we are all empowered to bring into the space.

This course offers:

*Silence (templates for self-generated, updateable affirmations and reminders designed to get you ready to be powerfully present and spiritually grounded before you enter the classroom)

*Sound (ways to fine tune and amplify your level of listening and responding to/being present for your particular students)

*Space (a process for designing guidelines and rituals that allow students to be present to EACH OTHER and the wisdom that surrounds them)

*Support (co-mentoring relationships and networking with other transformative teachers)

The Paradigm:

Juneteenth Freedom Academy is created in honor of the black feminist educator, poet, parent and political activist June Jordan.  We invoke her work as part of our task in continuing to spread the scattered message that slavery is over, in particular to those systems that continue to sell life and kill dreams.   We believe that teaching in oppressed communities with accountability to oppressed people can be a subversive act that is ultimately accountable to freedom, not the reproduction of conformity as usual across generations.  June Jordan taught in public libraries and schools, in independent underfunded Saturday supplemental programs, in state university classrooms, at Yale, in prisons, in community centers, in children’s books, in lectures and in living rooms.    The Juneteenth Freedom Academy for Educators draws on Alexis’s privileged access to June Jordan’s archival materials to use her syllabi, unpublished essays, course readers and student publications as resources for freedom in our lifetimes.

My brilliant and beloved co-conspirator and teaching partner Gardy Perard speaks with the clarity and precision of a mathematician.  He says that the primary question for educators is how to bring freedom, possibility, power and connection into every teaching context.   Together with Nia Wilson, Nikki Brown, Heather Lee and Zachari Curtis as co-facilitators of the Choosing Sides Program, a SpiritHouse program based in an alternative school in Durham serving students who were long-term suspended or expelled from Durham Public Schools, often for activities related to their involvement in street organizations, we created a student centered atmosphere of transformation and learning based on our internalized memory that the place where academics meet criminalized street organizers is a place of unstoppable power, is the generative collaboration that made the Black Panther one of the fiercest, most effective and most revolutionary organizations we know about.

Our accountability to the particularity and genius of the students that we worked with over the years pushed us to create practices to honor the truth that transformative education is not about transforming students.  It is about being present for their inherent brilliance and assisting them in transforming their and our relationships to oppressive institutions.   This is sacred work.  Because most of our teaching takes place in places impacted by oppressive systems, and because we and any student we might encounter are impacted by oppressive institutions the work of creating liberatory space takes rituals and practices before, during and after the classroom encounter that generate the transformative energy of staying present to each other’s brilliance no matter what.

Supportive Course Components:

*weeklong summer institute in Durham, NC to work with templates, practices and to engage readings from June Jordan, the Black Panther Party, and Alexis Pauline Gumbs!  (August 8-12)

*full color PDF workbook with posters, pocket reminders and accessories

*first month back interactive and motivating conference calls (August 25-September 25)

*video seminar to share with colleages

*quarterly optional online-enabled participant hosted gatherings

*the presence podcast and reminder PSA’s from Alexis

Sign Up:

1.  email  BY JULY 20th  with your intention to participate and responses to these 3 questions

a. what is the community of students you are accountable to/working with

b. what do you hope to gain from this course

c. what is every possible way to contact you 🙂

d. how you will support the course

2.  Support the course!!!

Support the Course!!!

Your presence is priceless.  No one will be turned away from the course for financial reasons.  HOWEVER support for the course is crucial.  Here are suggested ways to support your participation and to keep transformative autonomous spaces like this thriving:

*Please ask your school, organization, institution, employer, community to support your participation in this priceless experience. The institutional sponsor rate is sliding scale $200-500 depending on your assessment of what your institution can afford.

*Another option is to support the course individually in relatively affordable installments.  Become a sustainer of the Eternal Summer of the Black Feminist Mind at a level you feel comfortable with:

*Mobilize your community!  Take the opportunity to share the awesome thing you are doing with your mentors, friends, loved ones and allies and allow them to donate in your name.  Send them this button and remind them to put your name in “notes” so that I can tell you to thank them!

*And offer a trade!  Want to bring other resources to the event? (Food, materials, healing practices, resources I haven’t imagined?)  Make a proposal.

See you there!!!!!


Alexis Pauline Gumbs



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