In June, 2007, 50 teachers from the three major types of public schools in post-Katrina New Orleans (the state-takeover Recovery District Schools, the local system’s New Orleans Public Schools, and charter schools) gathered for a weekend workshop on equity and collaboration in the new landscape of education in New Orleans. The conference was co-sponsored by United Teachers of New Orleans (AFT Local 527), Concerned Educators of New Orleans, and the National Coalition for Quality Education in New Orleans (NCQENO).
Theresa Perry of Simmons College and NCQENO shared her research into “A Theory of Practice for African American School Achievement.” She identified two necessary and sufficient features for such achievement. One of them is “participation as full members in an educational organization or program designed to forge identities of achievement, in which membership means being an achiever.”
At SAC, we think about such theories and practices when we encourage students to see themselves as part of our collective educational community.
Anastasia McGee, a three-year member of SAC until the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina chased her away from Douglass High School for her senior year, wrote the following essay in the spring of 2005 after reading the essay by Adrinda Kelly posted yesterday on this blog. Our current Douglass and McMain students increase their academic and community efforts after they read essays such as Anastasia’s and Adrinda’s, both of which appear in The Long Ride.
Connecting with Maroon Colonies
I became interested in maroon colonies and the 1811 slave revolt when I read “Resistance” an essay by Adrinda Kelly, a McDonogh 35 graduate and Students at the Center participant. One of her essay says:
“In New Orleans enslaved people sought refuge in swamps before they would endure another day of dependence. Imagine the same hands that cherished a black woman’s hips made bloody in the sugar cane fields of master’s enterprise. Imagine having to mend those hands, to cradle the broken fingers that made your children, restoring them with your tears and your care.”
When I read these words I connected with maroon colonies, because it made me think of my current situation at my high school. The maroons communicated and stayed with the slaves to help free them. They could have easily left at any given time but chose to stay to help the other hundreds of slaves who were left in bondage and confinement. It made me think about the decisions I could have made to escape oppression at my current neighborhood school like the maroons did, but I resisted some teachers’ and students’ efforts to try and get me to go to Easton or 35, selective admissions high schools where only certain students fit the criteria. I made the decision to stay at Douglass long before I read anything about the maroons and the history, but reading it made me conscious about my decision, and that is when I started to feel a connection to history.
My decision to remain at Douglass is a struggle, but like the maroons I believe in helping other people in my community and not just myself. Adrinda’s essay made me see the connection I had to the maroons. It was only after reading “Resistance” for the fifth or sixth time that I understood the significance of hearing my predecessor’s story that she wrote when she was my age.
The opinions expressed in Student Stories: A New Orleans Classroom Chronicle are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.