Friday, August 04, 2006

Let's Get Free!!! Words of Wisdom from Chinyere Oteh.

I have known Ms. Chinyere Oteh for 8 years and for all those years she has been a blessing and always a beacon of hope and support...Peep game and recognize true knowledge when it is dropped...Also check out the Byron Lee article featuring her perspective on Black LeadershipPlease let her know what you think or how you feel about the message by leaving a comment on this post or e-mail here at
Vibrate Higher,ummm...
So, this idea has been brewing for some years now it began with boredom in history class as a girl. There are remnants of it in my discomfort with my name as a child. It continued as I shared feelings of alienation with other students on a predominantly white and wealthy college campus. It got stronger as I was finally introduced to texts about the middle passage and prominent writers of color, introduced to the idea of the value of writing myself into my academic work, introduced to West African and Classical Indian dance and a Black Repertory chorus class. (These classes and topics and realizationsserved as havens on that campus). The idea floated across the ocean as trips to Kenya and Nigeria changed my outlook on personal and collective identity; where we all come from and how we become who we are. Serving with AmeriCorps in the SLPS system made the idea stronger(get these kids something better, please!) Having Korean and Iranian and Columbian and Caucasian and African and African-American and mixed-race best friends as I grew up added to this idea too. The factors that have gotten (this is not is a word is it? and I continue to use it) me to think how I do today and feel charged to use my energy to continue to educate myself and others are countless. I just wanted you to see how this started and how it developed slowly one experience after another. Layers.

Some of you I've know for years, and some, I've only spent a few days or hours with, whatever the length of our connection in realtime, thank you. Because knowing you has also been in a factor in me wanting to move forward with this idea. Most recently it was one of those experiences with someone for a few days that got me ready to write to you.

Simply put: I want to start a Saturday school in St. Louis. Many of you know that I want to start a world-changing, mind-boggling school too, but while that's not quite here, and I don't feel in the position to do a project that big, I do feel competent enough and energized enough to start a small program for a few kids, who will meet in my apartment if need be. I am writing to you to see if this idea sounds good to you too, to see if you want to start a program in your city (this doesn't have to be huge, remember!), to see if you want to collaborate via web if we're not in the same city, to see if you want to collaborate in person, if you are in St. Louis, to see if you know of other exemplary models of schools and programs that provide uplifting alternative education for children and youth. (This will take some research, I intend to start with the few schools I know of in Oakland and Detroit that are African-centered but I know that more exist and I am not limiting this to programs that are Afrocentric (ahhh, it's great that Microsoft Word doesn't even recognize that word as I type it see what I mean about work we need to do) and only serve African-American kids (however, that's where I will probably begin) I'm looking for programs that serve any marginalized groups of youth in creative and revolutionary ways. This could include media camps for kids, cross-cultural exchanges/penpals, language immersion programs, past freedom schools, theater for kids, programs run out of churches, mosques, temples, innovative home school methods the list goes on. Some of you have started your own program or are attached to one, some of you have written books for children, some of you have artistic talent that you want to teach to younger people, and some of you probably even know how to raise some funds to start these projects so please do share.

I will probably naturally start with photography and writing two big passions of mine and I encourage you to start where you feel comfortable and with subjects you feel passionate about because you'll be able to pass more onto to the kids you work with if you start with
a topic you are dedicated to.

What else? I might start with just a group of kids with one gender not sure yet. Probably a group of 5 or so. Elementary or middle school age.

Call me pessimistic or revolutionary or whatever, but this is not meant to fit into a public school system at all. I intend to develop programming that completely counteracts the negative and patchwork type of history/English/music/cultural classes and opportunities that kids are exposed to in public school sytems. This, in my mind is to be an alternative. A place where kids come to learn about culture, their culture, other people's culture, if they are so fortunate to not be in a segregated place like StL, their neighbor's culture. And I think if done right, these programs will be ones that kids love to come to and bug their parents to bring them to and are excited to help create and will share with their peers.

So, I think my zeal is coming to a temporary waning point, or at least my desire to type, so I know I missed some stuff, I know it might seem cloudy but it's kind of supposed to because its going to take shape as we create it. Like I said, start where your passion is if you dj and are a musichead, start teaching kids how to scratch, if you know how to build things, teach carpentry skills, if you are social worker, or a lawyer, or any other type of professional, bring a kid to your
work/campus and show them around, if you are an artist start working with kids on developing their writing/acting/filmmaking/painting/singing/dancing/spokenword skills if you like to cook invite me over for dinner, ahem, teach the kids some culinary skills, if you do hair teach some kids to braid or do a haircut really, the list is endless. Please also share books, films, magazines, websites ETC! that serve as good sources of info. Remember, we are always learning and what we take in from the world even on mature/adult levels can be translated to the youth. It needs to be, so they grow up knowing the complexities of this world and are armed with tools like skilled trade and entreprenurial spirits to counteract a system that wants good obedient kids to keep following rules and not think for themselves. We have to start working with and without the systems that we both love and hate to make the future liveable and enjoyable for all of us.

And I know it's been on my voicemail for ages, and I know I need a fresh quote and I know I like Saul Williams maybe just a little too much, but I strongly believe that there's nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come. Get at me if this strikes a chord with

Peace and Culture

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