Thursday, December 11, 2014

Envisioning School in the Era of Ferguson

I originally wrote this piece for City School of the Arts Journal, a blog for the proposed arts-based charter middle school I am currently working to co-found. It was published on December 11th, 2014.


"To be honest, today feels like a hard day for dreaming." Renee puts her marker down and lets her painted cardboard leaf sit untouched on the table in front of her.
We're at Baruch Houses Community Center on the far East side of Manhattan--two City School of the Arts co-founders, a few of our former students, one of our board members, the president of Baruch's Tenant Association, about ten or fifteen parents and grandparents and a handful of middle schoolers. We're a diverse group. There's a bunch of white folks and a bunch of black folks, there's an American-born son of Chinese immigrants, a group of senior citizens from South and Central America, two teenaged girls from Guyana and a handful of wide-eyed African American middle schoolers. 
The plan for tonight is straightforward. We're going to start with a creative activity: designing leaves for the City School of the Arts Family Tree with words and images that reflect people's dreams for our proposed school. Then we're going to talk about our mission and vision, and answer some questions. That's it. Simple.
The problem is that tonight no one can focus.
It's the day after the announcement of the no-indictment verdict in Ferguson. A few blocks away in Union Square protestors are already starting to gather. And there's a palpable energy of grief and outrage pulsing through the room.