blackyouthThe American Friends Service Committees held its Freedom School July 26-29, 2016.  Members of the Youth Council for Positive Development participated. Here are their reflections.




Funi Gaines

After attending the Freedom School on Monday, it was clear that the program had a clear goal: to create an open environment for youth of color to discuss and express their experience with race and to generate ideas on how to attack racism. The day began with everyone in the room introducing themselves by telling their name, what they do, and why they think stopping racism in America is urgent.

As the day continued the discussion shifted towards the recent police violence and shootings. People shared their feelings on how they did not believe that the majority of police officers treat their race the same way as they would to whites. They expressed this through telling stories of police abuse, mistreatment, and brutality that they had personally been a victim of. After lunch, the discussion shifted towards how we can be successful and feel confident when having race related conversations with people who don’t entirely agree with your opinion. People shared how sometimes they worry that their peers will judge them for bringing up racism, and that this can limit the productivity of their conversations.

To end the day, the creator of the school’s expansive Ancient Egypt exhibit presented to the group. He explained how the Egyptian empire built the foundation of the society we know today by inventing advanced mathematics, architecture, and engineering.

Selam & Semhar Negassi

Freedom School is all about teaching both adults and children what exactly racism is and how it applies itself to our lives. Today our main conversation topic was poverty. We learned why poverty and homelessness exists. One example that was given was that some people who want to apply for a job are turned down because of their appearance. They may look dirty or have wrinkled clothes, which prevents employers from hiring them. Another example was that if you lose your home, it’s harder to get a job, get transportation to a job, or support a family. Without money, businesses, or homes to pass down to your children, it’s incredibly hard to pull yourself out of poverty.

Not only did we talk about the causes of general poverty, we discussed how communities in St. Louis are torn down and poor. Our group concluded that one reason was because of government systems. Things like the education system are not properly cared for in these neighborhoods which result in abandoned school buildings or low-quality education with fewer resources. We examined what slumlords are. Slumlords are people who own property but don’t take care of houses or apartments that have people living in them. They care only about profiting instead of the comfort of the people living there. Slumlords usually have buildings that reside in poorer parts of the city. We learned what slumlords really are for the first time today, and this was one fact that stuck with me. We learned that many veterans who come home from the military end up homeless or deep in poverty. They aren’t able to get loans to pay for houses, transportation, etc.

Overall, hearing today’s lesson on poverty certainly touched me and the people around me. We are excited to see what more Freedom School has to offer.

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