Hello from Eudora!
Dear friends of FSTF,
We're now more than half way through our summer, and we can't believe how the time has flown! This week's dose of inspiration comes to you from the J. Austin White Cultural Center in Eudora, Arkansas. The Cultural Center was founded in 2003 to provide arts-focused youth programs for children in the area. Much like the Freedom Projects we work with in Mississippi, the Cultural Center provides enrichment opportunities designed to prepare students for success in college and has recently expanded its enrichment offerings to include computer science, travel, fitness, and theater.
This summer, we have two amazing women from Harvard teaching college seminars to the older students at the JAWCC. Rachel Combs-González, who studies Latin American and Latino literature, is teaching a course that challenges students to re-think traditional narratives of America's discovery.
"This course sees literature," she explains, "as a site of contestation where writers of various backgrounds question and challenge racism, sexism, homophobia, and xenophobia by focusing on the people and events that have been forgotten or omitted from 'official History.'"
Rachel's students have read extensively from the work of historians, literary critics, and cultural theorists and have already come to nuanced understandings of how artists reimagine historical narratives to include those erased by the forces of conquest and colonial rule.
Naima Green, who spent several years working as a diplomat before beginning her Ph.D in Government and International Relations, is also deeply invested in reshaping students' understandings of the global stage.
In her course on US-China relations, students are learning the nuts-and-bolts of cross-cultural negotiation, running through simulations of actual foreign policy situations occurring between China and the United States. In the meantime, they're developing skills they will use for the rest of their lives.
Through a series of oral presentations, logic exercises, and debates Naima's students have already begun to hone their ability to make poised, careful arguments under pressure. They're also learning a little bit of Chinese! (See video below). Most importantly, though, they're beginning to imagine themselves as part of a larger global context and to think about possible careers in diplomacy. "I believe that it is crucial to expose students living in under-resourced communities in America to the world beyond," Naima explains, "to tell them that that there are people like them that have done this kind of work, and that they can be next!"
Rachel and Naima are both incredible scholars, but they're also deeply committed educators who understand the importance of sharing knowledge outside the scholarly communities in which they conduct their lives. "One of the big reasons that I wanted to participate in this program is that I feel like I have a lot to learn from these students," Naima explains, "and that a lot of what I've been fortunate enough to do in my life is the result of chance and blessing. I've been able to see a lot of places and interact with a lot of different people, and it has allowed me to understand the world better. I dream bigger now. There might be a kid in my classroom who never thought she could go abroad, work for the government, or go to Harvard and get a Ph.D. In my eyes, if I could do it, they can all do it. I want to give them the vision to dream big and go far."
Ms. Combs-González and Ms. Green are giving these students the summer of a lifetime, and we are so grateful to be a small part of it. If you're inspired by the work these women are doing and you want to know more, please don't hesitate to reach out! We love the opportunity to share our work. In the meantime, watch out for the next and final(!) installment of these weekly updates next weekend. We'll introduce you to the wonderful teaching fellows at the Meridian Freedom Project in Meridian, MS!
Andy & Emily