#BlackLivesMatter Freedom School will take place in the context of the Greater Toronto Area, where in Canada’s largest school board (the Toronto District School Board), 40% of Afro-Caribbean students do not graduate from high school, and face issues such as disengagement, low teacher expectations, and negative self-image/community self-image. Links between racism and poverty mean that Black children in working/poor areas have diminished access to summer learning opportunities, arts based learning opportunities, and technology in general.
In freedom school, children will learn to see themselves as intellectuals, as they practice higher order thinking tasks, such as articulating their personal philosophy on issues such as state violence, oppression and Black Liberation. Many of these skills are transferable skills that children can draw upon in the classroom. Children will strengthen their abilities to analyze and create media, which means that they will question the ways in which Blackness is presented to them as negative or lesser than, and they will have the power to create their own media. Children will have access to instruction from professional artists, and access to professional art making materials, as well as access to technology such as IPADs, computers, and design apps. Comfort and proficiency with these tools is essential for children growing up in the age of technology.
Connection and Social/Emotional Wellbeing:
Toronto District School Board stats show that Black children are 3 times as likely as their white counterparts to be suspended from school, and are disproportionately labelled as having social/emotional needs/enrolled in behavioural education classes. These patterns of disproportionate school discipline begin in early childhood education and elementary school, and can have a profound effect on the self-perception and self-image of young, Black, children. The powerlessness that parents articulate in terms of navigating school discipline and “behavioural” labeling are alarming. These instances are examples of how schools act as carceral spaces that familiarize Black children with the processes of pathologization and criminalization.
Freedom schools are a way for communities to self-determine an educational setting for our children is grounded in love, belonging, and understanding. Children will experiencing being cared for by adults and community members who love them. Children will build relationships with freedom school staff based on cultural familiarity and understanding, mutual respect, and love. These relationships foster emotional well-being. Children will also have an opportunity to build community with other Black children for a common purpose of liberation. They will discuss topics such as how to treat yourself, and your peers like your Black life matters. They will address topics such as: how to build and demonstrate solidarity, how to be a good ally when you hold power, how to navigate community conflicts etc.
For many working class Black families in the GTA, summer can be a very stressful time. For working single parents it means having to work and struggling to find affordable childcare or children’s programming. For many families, there are not many options. #BlackLivesMatter Freedom school would like to support families by offering free high quality programming, free culturally appropriate, healthy hot meals, free bussing to and from freedom school, and free childcare for younger children (0-4) of families enrolled in freedom school. This will provide stress relief for families.