Monday, August 6, 2012

Decompressing after SOS Convention

SOS Nat'l. Steering Committee closes out convention (James Boutin pic)
I'm taking a few days off, trying to decompress after an inspiring SOS Convention in D.C. and before the fall quarter starts. I also want to step back and think about some of the great things that took place over the weekend and what it all means for the future of this fledgling organization.

I mean, how do you digest amazing speeches by Jonathan Kozol, Deb Meier, Rose Sanders, Shanta Davis, and Nancy Carlsson-Paige all packed into 2 and a half days? Because I had to lead the Labor Panel/Workshop (more on this later but here's brother Fred's panel presentation) and introduce Kozol, I missed out on other presentations I really wanted to hear. Here's a great review of some of them by James Boutin.

Deb Meier, Stephanie & Me
There were some great student voices at the convention. Stephanie Rivera is s a 20 year old Junior at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NJ where she studies Education and English, and engages in learning opportunities that involve social justice, public policy, and political science. Check out her blog post on the convention here.

I also got to meet Nikhil Goyal, 17, who will be a senior at Syosset High School. He took part in Saturday's student panel along with Stephanie. Nikhil is a fan of project-based learning, an end to high-stakes testing and the molding of an individual’s education around his or her passions. He's also the author of One Size Does Not Fit All: A Student’s Assessment of School to be published in September 2012 by AERO

.I'm even lethal when I'm unarmed
'Cause I'm louder than a bomb -- Public Enemy

Langston Hughes
A revelation -- the convention was held at the Wardman Park Marriott where the great African-American poet, Langston Hughes once worked as a busboy. That's how my favorite D.C. hangout, Busboys and Poets, got its name. It's said that whenever Hughes had a pencil and paper in his hands, he would scribble poetry. He recalled an anecdote about how he was "discovered" by the poet Vachel Lindsay, who is considered to be the father of modern singing poetry. Lindsay was dining at the Wardman Park Hotel back in 1925 when Hughes summoned his courage and slipped several sheets of paper beside the poet's plate. Lindsay was obviously annoyed, but he picked up the papers and read a poem titled "The Weary Blues."
As Lindsay read, his interest grew. He called for the busboy and asked, "Who wrote this?" "I did," replied Langston Hughes. The rest as they say, is history. After my brother Fred discovered a plaque in the old Tower section of the hotel, recounting the story, and pointed it out to me, I worked it into my intro to Jonathan Kozol's speech. Readers of Jonathan's 1967 book, Death at an Early Age might recall that it was Kozol's introducing his inner-city Boston students to Hughes' classic poem, A Dream Deferred, that got him fired from his first teaching job. The firing led to a mass outcry, especially in the black community.

Jonathan told me it was the last line that got the authorities so upset. 

1 comment:

  1. It was another inspiring conference to be a part of, one I think will help me through the coming school year. Sometimes I think I need one of these once a month or so. Thanks for all your hard work on the Steering Committee and the work you do day to day.


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