We did this in Chicago and discovered great, small business people operating hair salons, hardware stores, rib joints and corner groceries. They ALL contributed to our neighborhood curriculum and it was an eye opener how resourced this impoverished community really was. Lots of smart people with an eye on education.


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We have a Dympna + Jeanette Book Angel Tag Team, who found and donated us two gems from a thrift store’s ONE DOLLAR A BAG bargain bonanza massive haul.

The first is this treasure of infant and toddler rhymes by Gyo Fujikawa.

Fujikawa’s family spent WWII in a Japanese internment camp located at Rohwer, Arkansas. Over her lifetime, Gyo created more than 50 children’s books.

The second find is related thematically.

Internment Camps, Migrant Tent Cities, Refugee Stations and Homeless Shelters have been with us for a very long time. Here is a children’s book about the Hmong refugees from the Vietnam War Era. It tours us through their beautiful pa’ndau stitchery story cloths. and the extreme conditions under which creativity continues to thrive.

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FREE READ! June Update is that we have been making monthly book drops at area daycares.  Many thanks to an Angel Volunteer at the Barbara Bush Library for contributing thrift store bags of books to our cause.  Hats Off to Educare Daycare on Kuykendahl for emptying out an available room and transforming it into A LIBRARY!!!  We love you for doing this and so will your parents and children.

Another Fabulous daycare we have visited and contributed to is Sharon Talley’s KIDZ K’NECT CHILD DEVELOPMENT CENTER at 1340 Cypress Station.  Everyone should tour the library and computer lab housed at this site.  Awesome!!!!!

Just pick up a well-loved, well-read FREE book at your child’s daycare and take it home for a FREE READ.

Keep the book.  Share the book.  Read it over and over.  Trade it in for a new FREE Book.

And read, read, read.  It is FREE and it is FREEING.




It was a small cooperative store on a little known island off the coast of South Carolina. During the harshest days of the civil rights struggle, embattled black leaders came through its doors seeking inspiration. Among the legendary leaders who visited the co-op were: Ralph Abernathy, Dorothy Cotton, Conrad Brown, Fannie Lou Hamer, Martin Luther King Jr, John Lewis, Bernice Reagon, Cleveland Sellers, Kwame Ture (Stokely Carmichael), Andrew Young, Hosea Williams and many others.

What began in that co-op was a Citizenship School to teach blacks on Johns Island, South Carolina how to qualify to vote. Later, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) spread that program throughout the South. That one class in the co-op became thousands of classes in churches, schools and homes. In 1962, the SCLC brought in other groups who then formed the Voter Education Project (VEP). Between 1962 and 1966 VEP trained 10,000 teachers for Citizenship Schools and 700,000 black voters registered throughout the South.  By 1970, another million black voters had registered.

The Progressive Club main entrance from South Carolina Dept of Archives and History.

Aldon Morris in his book, “Origins of the Civil Rights Movement,” wrote: “…the Citizenship Schools were one of the most effective tools of the movement.” That class at the co-op led to millions of blacks voting for the first time and as a result the South and US history were changed.

The co-op was called the Progressive Club. Johns Island is one of the Sea Islands, home to the unique Gullah people who had retained a lot of their African cultural heritage. In the 1940’s Johns Island was remote and a nine-hour ferry ride to Charleston, SC. After WWII, bridges slowly began to connect Johns Island to the mainland.

The Progressive Club was started in 1948 by Esau Jenkins and other Johns Island residents as both a consumer co-op and a mutual aid organization. About forty families started the co-op. The co-op bought an old school building on River Road that sold everything from groceries to gasoline and seed to feed. The members used it to trade goods and services and as a mutual aid program to help each other in time of need.  Every member of the Progressive Club had to be a registered voter and had to pledge to get one or more voters out to vote on Election Day. A little later, Esau and others organized the CO Federal Credit Union (still operating) to serve low income blacks who could not get mortgages or loans.

Esau Jenkins with children. Photo courtesy of Avery Research Center.

In his business life, Esau Jenkins ran a bus service which served the needs of high school students and daily workers going from the island to downtown Charleston. One day, in the 1950’s one of the passengers, Alice Wine, said to Esau Jenkins, “I’d like to hold up my head like other people, I’d like to be able to vote. Esau, if you’ll help me a little when you have the time, I’d be glad to learn the laws and get qualified to vote. If I do, I promise you I’ll register and I’ll vote.”

Esau Jenkins heard her plea. He copied off the laws and handed them out to his passengers.  He began a daily custom of teaching them how to read and write and learn the law while he drove the bus. Blacks could not get the vote in South Carolina unless they could pass the literacy test. Alice Wine was the first of his passengers to register to vote. What Esau Jenkins was teaching on the bus to a few passengers he wanted to make available to all the disenfranchised blacks on the Sea Islands. But how?

Another avenue for Esau’s road to democracy was about to be opened by Septima Clark.

In 1953, Septima Clark, an activist Charleston teacher learned about the Highlander Folk School in Tennessee as one of the few places in the South where blacks and whites could meet together. The Highlander Center was modeled after the Danish Folk Schools which themselves spurred the Danish cooperative movement.

Septima Clark teaching at a

Septima had taught on Johns Island and Esau had been one of her students. In 1954, Septima went twice to the Highlander Center. There she met the founder Myles Horton and his wife Zilphia who that summer came down to South Carolina, to Johns Island to learn about what was going on.

In 1955 & 56, Septima taught a leadership class at Highlander. She used her car to transport three groups of people there from the Charleston area, including Esau Jenkins. During his time at Highlander, Esau Jenkins saw that a combination of the Highlander teaching technique and his rolling bus classroom was the next step. Esau saw also that Septima Clark was an exceptional teacher of the Highlander method. Propitiously, Bernice Robinson, a cousin of Septima, was another of the Charleston attendees. Jenkins asked Highlander to help merge the two formats and sponsor a Citizenship School on Johns Island.

The first form of the Citizenship School began at the Progressive Club in 1957. But with the co-op having grown to 400 members, the old school building could not also accommodate the growing needs of the Citizenship School.  They tried to rent, however, none of the schools, churches or organizations on Johns Island dared to let the “Citizenship School” use their buildings. They were afraid of what might happen to them.

Esau and the members of the Progressive Club saw that the only option was to do it themselves by buying land and building a new co-op store with meetings rooms. Esau called Myles Horton at Highlander to talk about where the Progressive Club would get the funds.

Highlander lent the funds to the Progressive Club to buy land on Johns Island to build a new larger co-op store.  The new store was built nearby on River Road and opened in 1963. (The building still exists and is now on the National Register of Historic Places).  At the front of the co-op’s building was the retail shop with a store room behind it that acted at night as a meeting room. Behind that they built a dormitory to house participants from afar and also an indoor basketball court. There amongst the weighing scales and storage counters democracy for many blacks in the South was born. Alice Wine became one of the cashiers at the co-op and she can be seen in a lot of the historic photos.

Septima Clark is one of the most unsung heroes of the civil rights movement. (In 1955, Septima invited Rosa Parks to her class at Highlander. Just months before she refused to give up her seat on that bus in Montgomery, Alabama). In 1955, the State of South Carolina passed a law stating that teachers who were members of the NAACP would not be allowed to keep their jobs. Septima Clark would not leave the NAACP and in 1956 she lost her teaching job in Charleston. Myles Horton learned that Septima had been fired and asked her to become Director of Workshops at Highlander as well as the Highlander’s liaison with Esau and the Citizenship School.

In “Ready from Within,” Septima Clark comments about the co-op store, “…Esau’s group fixed the front part like a grocery store and sold things to themselves …There were two rooms in the back and in those two rooms we taught. We didn’t want white people to know we had a school back there. We didn’t have any windows…”

Bernice Robinson leads a “Citizenship School” on Johns Island, teaching blacks to read and write so they will be able to vote.

Brought in to be the regular teacher at the Progressive Club was Bernice Robinson, the young cousin of Septima Clark who had also attended Highlander. Highlander raised funds to pay for the program and had Septima Clark oversee it. Soon the Marshall Field Foundation in Chicago took an interest in growing the program beyond Johns Island.

However, at this time the State of Tennessee decided to use illegal tactics to close down Highlander. As a result, Highlander was closed and all its properties and assets sold by the local sheriff at auction. To protect the Field grant and the Citizenship School program, the Highlander quickly transferred the funds and the program to the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). Septima Clark, Bernice Robinson and others were transferred with it. Andrew Young and Dorothy Cotton were asked by the SCLC to grow the program beyond Johns Island to the rest of the South.

Young and Cotton, and many other civil rights leaders, were still taken to the Progressive Club to see how the program best worked. On her way back with other Mississippi voting rights activists from their visit to the Citizenship School Fannie Lou Hamer was infamously beaten up in Winona, Mississippi.

There are many other stories about the impact of the Progressive Club. For example, one of the stories would be about the Sea Island Folk Festival that took place in the field behind the Progressive Club. Intertwined with all of this is the work of Guy and Candy Carawan of the Highlander Center who lived on Johns Island in 1963. Carawan spread an old song from South Carolina through the Highlander Center to Pete Seeger and the rest of the world. That song, “We Shall Overcome” is now a freedom anthem worldwide, and the song rights are owned by the Highlander Center.

“We Shall Overcome” reminds us of the accomplishments of that simple Citizenship School humbly created in a co-op shop that became one of the greatest stories of the Civil Rights Movement.

David J. Thompson is writing a book about, ”The Role of Cooperatives in the Civil Rights Movement.” He visited the Progressive Club store about 1996 when it was covered in vines and almost forgotten.

Dear Mother, Dear Father, Dear Teacher, Dear Friend
Public School as we knew it, has come to an end

Across the U.S. we dissect and discuss
How Smarter & Balanced is a spectacular BUST

All true, can’t deny it, I loathe it, I hate
Fabricating fragile inferences on coyotes and the wild honey they ate

But a Yote is a carnivore, and not one to mimic
A bear in a beehive, it really is ALL one big gimmick

Teams of technocrats sitting far from the fray
Of imaginative 4th graders on Pearson Testing Day

Don’t care that the passage is a “diversity” bore
A deliberate distortion of Native/Hispanic lore

A topic we don’t study, but maybe we should
Is how corporate conglomerates came to conquer our Hood

Every subject manipulated to maximize shame
While misguided systems chase after profit and blame

So here we all sit, not to be fooled
Stewing in outrage, not about to be cooled

We’re smart! We know it! This test is no measure!
Of US, Your Children, Your National Treasure

By Kathy Irwin

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Once upon a time Teachers collected and exchanged ideas and images about Starting Points for student learning.

Teachers were Original and Imaginative and not dictated to by colorless technocrats terminally clueless about complex and creative curriculum.

Here’s one repository.



Small Change
Why The Revolution Will Not Be Tweeted
Malcolm Gladwell The New Yorker October 2010

The civil-rights war that engulfed the South, and the lives of some 70,000 students in the 1960’s, happened without e-mail, texting, Facebook, or Twitter.

When the sit-in movement spread from Greensboro, it did not spread indiscriminately. It spread to those cities which had preëxisting “movement centers”—a core of dedicated and trained activists ready to turn the “fever” into action.  That meant groundwork training sessions, retreats for protesters, legal planning, in other words…high-risk, strategic activism.
Fifty years after one of the most extraordinary episodes of social upheaval in American history, we seem to have forgotten what activism is.
Digital Media is simply a form of organizing which favors the weak-tie connections that give us access to information over the strong-tie connections that help us persevere in the face of danger.
It makes it easier for activists to express themselves, and harder for that expression to have any impact. The instruments of social media are not a natural enemy of the status quo.
“Networks are passive motivators. If it doesn’t cost me much time, money or energy, I’ll “Like” your cause on Facebook. I’ll retweet your plea to sign a petition. I’ll perhaps even donate a few bucks to clean up oily pelicans.
But weak ties won’t motivate people to DEFY a government.
(CCSS, VAM, Corporate School Seizures, High On Pay Scale Firings, TFA)

Gladwell’s tome wasn’t an attack on social networking. It was merely an attempt to bring a sense of reality to the over-inflated sense of import we give it. This isn’t to say social networks aren’t powerful or meaningful or cannot help facilitate revolution, activism and social change. They can. But they help facilitate it, not drive it.” Jason Falls @ Social Media Explorer

If you are of the opinion that all the world needs is a little buffing around the edges, this essay should not trouble you. But if you think that there are still lunch counters out there that need integrating, it ought to give you pause


In 2013 Project Cornerstone toured Cuba’s Museum of Literacy and here’s what they found.

There is an amazing literacy rate in Cuba– 97% of their population is literate. Their students score higher than any other country in Central and South America on standardized tests and their education is free all the way through university level.

Way back in January of 1961, the call went out to all young people, students aged 14 and 15, in which they were summoned to step up and travel into the rural areas of the country where the literacy rate was at its worst.

Youth were asked to leave their homes and live with host families. These young people were to work in the fields with their host families during the day and taught them to read and write at night. 105,000 students ranging in age from 12 – 15 stepped up and volunteered!!

Volunteers were then given a crash course in how to teach reading and writing to people who were totally illiterate. The faculty who taught the youth were experienced teachers who had gone through the university program for educators and were teaching in schools all over Havana and surrounding areas.  Every movement has its symbols, and this one was no exception.

Each of the youth teachers who went into the countryside took not just their teaching supplies but also a lantern. Since the studying and teaching had to happen in the evening, after a day in the fields was finished, and there was no electricity in rural Cuba, the lantern was not only the symbol of the literacy movement, but a very practical tool needed by the novice teachers.

The oldest person taught to read and write was 110 years old. The youngest teacher was 8 years old! Many of the youth teachers from the literacy campaign went on to become teachers as adults and some are still teaching! The museum has a documentary film, “Maestra” which tells the story of 3 teachers from the literacy movement. It was clearly a time in their lives when they, as young people, knew they were a resource to their community!


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Maybe it is time for a field trip to The Museum of Literacy.







The Brooklyn NY Sheepshead Bay marine biology classes took place during an activity of school closures and teacher strikes.  But these picket lines were peopled by unionized, public school professionals who had most recently gone south and volunteered in the 40+ Freedom Schools that had erupted in Mississippi and elsewhere, beginning in 1964.  These teachers knew better, had witnessed and survived mob violence first hand, and as a result, were not afraid of the NYC power elite.

The idea for those CRM ’64 schools began with other classroom teachers in Boston MA and Prince Edward County VA, who responded to right wing, racist resistance to the Brown vs. Board 1954 decision by refusing to cooperate with locked door policies.  Instead, they opened their own schools in off-site locations which became the epitome of liberated learning spaces, places where discriminatory facilities, textbooks, parents/teachers/administrators/elected officials, and curriculum held no sway.

In every case, social change was the order of the day.  Freedom schools were immediate and relevant, framing activism and investigation around local conditions that cried out for confrontation and change.  Youth attended but so did parents and intergenerational citizens.  Of course math, science, literacy, history, economics, civics and geography were embedded in all of it.  How could they not be?  But these were not empty, fragmented, reductionist, test-driven, corporate routines, passing for academics.  These subjects came to life as the entry points into activism on pressure-point issues.  All teachers were crystal clear that ignorance, illiteracy and incompetence formed the institutionalized foundation of separation, exclusion and oppression.

Today, it would be the same bitter wine but in newly branded bottles where the labels might read Race To The Top, TFA, Pearson, Common Core, ALEC, NCTQ, FERPA, Broad Foundation, or Vouchers and Charters.  But the 2015 reincarnations aren’t nearly as important as the essence that continues to promote and insure social isolation and injustice.  That multi-headed hydra is more than worthy of our eternal vigilance and our instinctive resistance.

In the case of Morris’ Sheepshead Bay marine biology classes, for some teens this was simply something to do while schools went silent and faculty on-strike.  Certainly there would have been typical teen grumbling that he or she had no interest in getting wet feet down by the bay.  The sentiment was that since we’d never explored there before, why bother now?  What does marine life or the pollution of the bay, its history or its economics have anything to do with my life, or my liberation, anyway?  Peer pressure and major NUDGing may have been brought to bear.

But the trade-off was the sight of sunrise over the water, and a story about the demise of oysters which meant the loss of the sheepshead porgy, and how we once ate what we caught right amidst the seaweed and salt marshes, fresher healthier and environmentally safer for adjacent communities.  There was the investigation into what REALLY happened to the Canarsie/Canarsee native people, a bloody legacy.  Following, was the discovery that slaves, and later emancipated slaves, were original founders of bayside villages since slavery was once quite legal in New York, among many other northern states.

Meanwhile, in other parts of the city teachers were exercising their professional responsibilities in determining curriculum and social behavior and they were free to be creative, without restriction, from a bureaucratic administration.  In fact, parents and teachers OCCUPIED some schools around the clock for the duration of a 1968 strike.

Principal Sid Morrison described that episode as a beehive in which parents covered administrative duties, helped out in classrooms and “slept-in” so the doors remained open.

Never before weekly meetings were held between parents and teachers to mingle, mix and discuss problems and goals. Classes became more relaxed and informal, and lesson covered a broader scope. When the strike ended, the group that had been active continued its investigation into changing the system in order to offer an enriched and more personal educational experience for every child.

From there it was a natural step into Open Corridors type classrooms where families contributed comfortable sofas, chairs, rugs, lamps and bookcases. Parents made games and materials for classroom use.

They built and painted storage units, painted classrooms, and provided pots, pans, measuring utensils, tools for workbenches, typewriters – all those items never before found in classrooms. Wardrobe trunks were fitted with casters and filled with colorful costumes. Incubators, sandboxes and indoor ponds were built. Animal cages and feed were donated.

Parents with media background worked with classes in doing films and filmstrips. Musicians shared their talents. Actors and dancers taught in their fields. The skills of sewing, cooking, carpentry work and teaching were utilized. A mini-market was set up in the school where children did comparison shopping, went to the wholesale market bought food, and learned to run their own co-op.

That was then but this is now, where we remain one long continuum of struggle, related as a family of inexhaustible, global energy precisely because we can link arms with each other at every stage of the push-back.


Active Learning And Activist Learning

What if Active Learning and Activist Learning came to mean the same thing at Michael Brown’s high school? Maybe Ferguson would not have been inhabited by an occupying army. Students with the support and guidance of authentic teachers, meaning not adults simply drawing down a paycheck and going along with the educational-industrial atrocities, would have called a meeting. Maybe Michael would have lumbered in to listen, curious, skeptical but reflective.
In this meeting, students would have announced that they were lives in search of an education, one they were not receiving in their current “reformist” situation. They would have made it quite clear that a rich man with theme park “budget experience” had no business being given a phony title and phony authority anywhere within their school district’s hierarchy.

They would have declared that deliberately impoverished school budgets and segregated learning centers were nothing new, just the old, stale, sick repetition of the same old bigotry.
Video, protest art, interviews, dance, drama and public media exhibitions would have begun to document what passed for high school in Ferguson. Out of control students, teachers, police and politicians would have been denounced and then put on public museum display for all to see and censor.

This is what Active and Activist Learning is capable of and it is exactly why we only catch glimpses of it on the cover of an aging newsletter from the 1970’s.

Rest In A Disturbed Peace All Ye Who Love Democracy!

As you might guess, there was no resting in the imagined Normandy HS.

Active and Activist Learning requires action, action that disturbs the peace and prosperity of right wing, reactionary eejets like a plutocratic-appointed “President Of The Ferguson Board Of Eduction”,  the Silver Dollar City Theme Park tycoon from Branson, MO and his state school board cronies.

The community of learners at Michael Brown’s high school recognized a colonial model when they saw one. Some secret somebody announced the arrangement one morning by gaining access to the Public Address system and airing an up tempo version of Gil Scott-Heron’s hit song, Johannesburg, with revised lyrics that inserted Fergusonburg. And for that week, What’s The Word? Fergusonburg! was the chorus chanted over and over in every hallway, assembly, food line and sports team warm-up routine.

Michael Brown had never heard of Johannesburg, Steve Biko or poet Dennis Brutus but his teenage school mates made certain that he began to listen up and learn. If Normandy High was to be their Robben Island, then there was a rich history of resistance that cried out for absorption.

The first rule of survival in such a degraded, Power Over Paradigm is self discipline, survival and unified action.
When Michael behaved like a bully or was spotted hanging out with the wrong crowd, he got called on it in a community meeting. He didn’t like it much. He even stomped out a time or two but in the end, he embraced the upbraiding delivered in his best interest. He was no bull in a china shop and he could not muscle his way through life in Ferguson. Though oblivion was a logical choice, his friends cautioned him not to get lost in a haze of drugs and illegal misadventures. They needed his intelligence, his humor, his loyalty, his affection and his strength. A dead hero is no good to no living body. These kids were fighting for a good life and Michael’s spiritual muscle was a Must Have.

It was in this fashion that Michael Brown might have begun to master the art of channeling his outrage at the conditions that surrounded him. He could have learned that he was not alone, an aberration, a menacing giant or a renegade. In the end, he did become a young man with a purpose, the very big purpose of revealing Ferguson to the world for what it was, an oppressive arrangement, repeated across our USA in countless communities of class and color.
Did you really think the Ferguson Teens needed to read that the White House authorized U.S. torture centers around the globe? Of course not, because militarization of the entire culture was obvious on their neighborhood streets day after day. It was crystal clear in the corridors of Normandy where students roamed freely outside of assigned classes while unable to read and comprehend the front page of USA Today. Time to take the bull by the horns.

Michael Brown first argued that he did not have time to tutor anyone but he was soon persuaded otherwise by his affirming affinity group. They would set up shop after school at the library, in a church basement or barber shop, using whatever was at hand to launch their improvised adventures into literacy. It was crazy, sometimes raucous and rowdy but these were effective sessions and they knew it. It felt absolutely RIGHT.

Numbers swelled and soon bands of teen tutors and tutees began a next logical step, mounting voter registration drives across the most under-served sections of Ferguson.

They fashioned themselves after the freedom-seeking literacy/voter movements on John’s Island SC in the 1960. They knew full well how literacy and grassroots empowerment were linked and they also knew that the cops would interfere the moment their work began to pose a challenge to the White Power Structure. What’s The Word? Fergusonburg! And in Fergusonburg it became a badge of honor to be stopped by the police and interrogated or threatened for distributing handbills that laid out the particulars on how and why to register and vote out the ruling junta.

Well, you know how youth are. They talk to each other. They post and twitter, message and selfie and before too long, surrounding public high school student bodies began to hear about the active/activist Ferguson learning movement. No one needed sanctioned internships or co-op experiences. It was not a self-serving resume citation they were seeking nor did they request official transcript credit. They knew the real deal when they saw it and they wanted in.

Soon, the P.D. was hassling the sons and daughters of hard-working county clerks, plumbers, beauticians and practical nurses. These parents were having none of it and so their dignity and influence brought an entirely new audience to the inhumane horror that was Fergusonburg.

When the private schools arrived, it really went viral. After a day of voter reg sidewalk pounding, the new recruits headed home with iPods and iPads full of video, audio, photos and Instagrams documenting the paramilitary protocols practiced in Fergusonburg.

These pampered parents were fast and furious with a response that rained official censure all over the pathological parade that passed for a community police presence in Ferguson. Talk about class warfare. The 1% were finally throwing their weight around someplace where it would do some good. A whole new world of energy, citizenship and inclusion began to take shape.

The desegregation of St. Louis County county took place spontaneously, outside the purview of court orders, as 2015 youth broke bread together, exchanged mix tapes and dance steps, played hoops and Xbox, toured each other’s homes and neighborhoods, silkscreened banners, placards, teeshirts and hosted teach-ins on how institutionalized racism is an economic arrangement benefitting only a malignant few.

Ferguson students of grassroots democracy artfully and courageously moved the details of their lives ever closer, until a seamless web was sewn that pulled everyone together in a civic embrace of inclusion and participation.  The spirit of Michael Brown was their instigator and their inspiration.

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