Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Celebrating Literacy With Greenwich High School - Bringing Ubuntu Academy Kids With Me @writingproject

A couple of months ago, I was contacted by librarians and media specialists in Greenwich, Connecticut, inquiring about making presentations to middle and high school students. They are participating in a community reads initiative and one of the novels offered in their district is Warren St. John's Outcasts United. I have read this book several times and use it extensively as a resource in my courses and while mentoring and working with relocated refugee youth in Syracuse, New York. Parallel to Luma Mufleh's life mission with schooling and sports, so became my academic work: Responsibility to Speak Out”: Perspectives on Writing From Black African-Born Males With Limited and Disrupted Formal Education. 

Since arriving to Connecticut, I've worked with my cousin, Hoops4Hope, and Connecticut Writing Project-Fairfield, to launch the first-ever young adult literacy lab for relocated and immigrant youth - Ubuntu Academy. A decade ago, while I was still teaching in Kentucky, my cousin Mark wondered what Literacy4Hope would look like. A lot of academic and leg work later, I'm beginning to see that it is beginning to look something like this. It is a willingness to be open to many communities who have needs, but also make unique contributions. 

Last summer, I had the fortune of teaching a weeklong seminar at Louisiana State University for a Young Adult Literature conference. While there, I kicked off the idea for Ubuntu Matters, a website for posting materials for individuals who work with relocated, refugee youth, especially from African nations. I still have work to do with it, but when I'm asked to speak to 160 high school students, I realize there's a lot more interest in K-12 schools about colonialism, post-colonialism, and the humanitarian issues that have resulted.

Today, Abonga, Omar, and Peter Simon will present our collaborative story to the students at Greenwich High School, and as a bonus, twins Abu and Lossine Bility will be Skyping to share their success in college.

Literacy really is for life and, like my research showed, communities matter most. This is a National Writing Project way of thinking and it is my thinking for life. I can be me because of who we are together.

And to punctuate the day, tonight....I get to teach back to back graduate courses and, tomorrow, lead school wide professional development in West Haven on Wednesday. And he's off!

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