FREEDOM SCHOOLS KEEP RACISM ALIVE
On June 26, 2021, Gwen Berry won the bronze medal in Olympic hammer-throwing trials. The honor qualified her to represent the United States in the upcoming Olympic games. The world watched as Berry refused to stand in the winner’s circle with the first and second place winners during the playing of the Star Spangled Banner. Instead, Berry turned her back on the American flag and covered her head with a black t-shirt that read “Activist Athlete.” Later she told an ESPN reporter, “The anthem doesn’t speak for me. It never has. My purpose and my mission is bigger than sports.”
In an ESPN interview, Berry attributes her activism to two sources: her father and a Freedom School she attended as an adult. Her dad became a self-educated activist by spending time in a local library studying African history and social justice. At home, he shared what he learned with his daughter Gwen. She also attended a Freedom School where she learned how to become an activist against the oppression she and other blacks suffer.
Where did Freedom Schools originate? How are they currently influencing the next generation of leaders who reduce the citizens of this nation to recognize themselves as either being oppressed or being an oppressor?
In 1964, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) assisted in founding the first Freedom School in Mississippi. This was less than a decade after the Federal Government desegrated public schools. SNCC leaders began the first Freedom School to “train and educate people to be active agents for social change.” Black Americans felt the public schools they now had the opportunity to attend were irrelevant to their culture. They also felt their white teachers in public schools could not relate to black students. They wanted the civil rights movement perpetuated through schools that would keep their culture alive, allow black students to excel in a less structured environment, and promote activism. Initially, the founders wanted schools for children that would create a continuation of the successful civil rights movement of the 1960s. Students would be empowered and encouraged to engage in activism for the advancement of minorities.
Today’s Freedom Schools function as summer enrichment programs or during the school year as after-school tutoring programs. They draw the majority of their participants from children who live in minority neighborhoods. They meet in schools, churches, community centers, homes, or any local facility available.
Today’s Freedom Schools have grown in popularity as they teach all ages and focus on Critical Race Theory, white supremacy suppression, racial justice organizing, and commitment to social justice. In March, Illinois Governor Pritzker signed a bill that would provide funding from the Illinois revenue funds to create a network of six more Freedom Schools to add to the one school already in existence in Chicago. Three years ago UC Berkeley Center for Race and Gender initiated a unique Freedom School for Intersectional Medicine and Health Justice. It’s not difficult to locate a Freedom School in almost every major city in the United States.
One of the major sponsors for Freedom Schools is Children’s Defense Fund (CDF), a nonprofit that receives federal funding through grants. CDF’s website contains a picture of hundreds of kids raising power fists unison. The CDF alone serves more than 12,000 children at 180 schools in 101 cities and towns across 28 states. According to the Children’s Defense Fund website, the “Freedom School programs integrate reading in an activity-based curriculum that promotes social, cultural, and historical awareness.”
A Freedom School curriculum uses culturally relevant material and may include current issues like defunding the police, activism, oppression of races, etc. Activists like Howard Zinn (known for his controversial Marxist history curriculum, History of the American People) helped write the first curriculum for the newly founded schools. Zinn felt all reading material needed to focus on social justice issues. Students engaged in open discussion on activism and Zinn’s idea of two classes: the oppressed and the oppressor.
America isn’t a perfect country. But it does have a reputation for offering the most freedoms of any nation in the world. Let’s pray for all the schools in our nation that the teachers will instill in their students the skills and concepts that will allow them to be successful, exhibit godly leadership, strengthen their families, and lead them into a relationship with God.
So many godly, Christian teachers work in our nation’s public schools! Will you commit to pray for teachers in your community? Share your ideas on how to do this!
Editor’s note–We feel we must share with you that Bible clubs are constitutionally allowed in public schools. Check out Child Evangelism Fellowship and their Good News Clubs–the Lord may be stirring you to action to bring truth through an afterschool program at your local school–click HERE to find out more.
About the Author: Nancy Huff is an educator with a mission to equip believers to pray strategically for the Cultural Mountain of Education. She has authored Taking the Mountain of Education: A Strategic Prayer Guide to Transform America’s Schools. She leads prayer groups to pray at key educational locations across the US. Currently, Nancy serves as the Heartland Apostolic Prayer Network (HAPN) Lead Prayer Coordinator for the Mountain of Education. For additional information go to: https://takingthemountainofeducation.com/author/nancyahuff/. Photo by CDC on Unsplash .
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