Occupy Education: Paul Robeson Freedom School Launches in Brooklyn

Named in honor of African American singer and activist Paul Robeson, the Paul Robeson Freedom School will focus on education for liberation.

Begun by a coalition of public education advocates, the eight-week educational program for Brooklyn youth “most affected by the destructive policies enacted in the public school system” will be housed in a historic church in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

Open to 10 to 14 year-old students residing in Brooklyn, the school will give preference to students from low-income communities. The program will begin July 9, with a class of 35 students and seven staff members working to self-design interdisciplinary curriculum, with a focus on hands-on experiences in urban gardening and culinary arts, as well as research into community self-empowerment in Brooklyn.

"Due to the disruptiveness in the public school system, we are creating our own independent model for public education," says Rodney Deas, founding member of the Coalition for Public Education and co-principal of the school.

Originating in 1960's Mississippi, Freedom Schools date back to when racial segregation of schools and resources for “colored schools” forced community leaders to launch a Freedom Summer for youth education. Although Brown v. Board of Education (1954) legally ended school segregation, a separation still existed.

With the goal of a culturally relevant curriculum, Paul Robeson Freedom School hopes to Occupy education.

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Lakshmi Sarah

Born and raised in California, Lakshmi is an educator and journalist. With roots in Kochi, Prague and San Francisco she divides her time between the places she feels at home. Over the past few years, Lakshmi has worked with newspapers and magazines from Gaborone, Botswana to Los Angeles, California. Lakshmi has several years of experience working with the National Student Leadership Conference. In 2009 and 2010 she directed the NSLC program on Journalism & Mass Communication at American University in Washington, DC. She is a graduate of Pitzer College in California where she studied Global Communications and Studio Arts. She is currently pursuing her Master's in Journalism, Media and Gobalization in Aarhus, Denmark.

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