Becoming an Activist: Little Steps, One Week (A Picture Diary)

I have been teaching community-based learning courses for about four years now.  I have been working in the community since I was a little kid, first through standing with my mom at rummage sales and helping out in the Saint Francis School soup kitchen.  As I first started teaching education-focused classes on social justice and volunteerism, I volunteered at the schools where my students worked.  And now, I’m exploring other roles.  The last week was a whirlwind of networking and trying new things.  I present my picture diary and the ups and downs of finding my new place as an activist for equity in education.

Thursday, May 31

Thursday, May 31, was the Save Our Schools Day of Action.  I’m still feeling out all of the official organizations that work to support schools, advocate for kids and teachers, and talk about school funding.  I am a Stand for Children member, I attended the UPSET (Underfunded Parents, Students, and Educators Together) rally, and I decided to test out the SOS Day of Action as part of my journey.

One of the actions the group was taking part in was a rally outside the Oregon Education Investment Board’s meeting with the new Chief Education Officer, Rudy Crew.  Both Crew and Governor Kitzhaber spoke to the small rally group; this earned both points in my book, but I am curious to see how this new CEO will turn around Oregon schools in the next 3-10 years.

On a side note, there was much talk about the last-minute change of location for the meeting (from PSU to Parkrose High School).  PSU would have undoubtedly had a much higher turn-out.  Was the change of location a way of avoiding more protestors?

Later in the day, I attended the Harvey Scott SUN showcase and was privileged to witness the work of my colleague Sabina Haque with SUN school kids and PSU Capstone students.  They produced beautiful community maps in addition to video shorts that filled the auditorium with the students’ honesty, real experience of the world, and ability to overcome obstacles even at such a young age.  This showcase really embodies one kind of community work that I am completely dedicated to — the sharing of our abilities and talents and the guiding of new mentors to work one-on-one with students in areas such as art that have been cut from so many of our schools.

Friday, June 1

I started the day early with a big cup of coffee and a muffin.  I then kissed my two children goodbye and headed to PSU where the Portland Action Summit: Leadership for the Next Generation was taking place.  I was able to listen to an incredibly articulate group from Lincoln High School (the “We the People” Constitution Team) answer audience-posed questions about the role of the community to support equity in education.  Very inspiring; here’s some video footage from the Classroom Law Project (also inspiring).  If all young people could be this well-educated in civics, what a community we would have!

I also participated in a community mapping project (a vision of what our community looks like now and what it should look like with adequate support for youth voices) and networked with Hands on Portland, the Classroom Law Project, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, and the Oregon Student Association.  Meeting people face to face is what this work is really about.  I feel like I have some good resources for future partnering and had many offers of groups to attend my class and speak to my students.

Later in the evening, I was honored to attend the Portland Teacher’s Program graduation ceremony.  I ran into students from my last five years of teaching and was so happy to hear that some of them are now in the classroom doing the important work. A powerful quote from the program: “The country is in deep trouble.  We’ve forgotten that a rich life consists fundamentally of serving others, trying to leave the world a little better than you found it.  We need the courage to question the powers that be, the courage to be impatient with evil and patient with people, the courage to fight for social justice” (Cornel West).

Saturday, June 2

I attended the opening day of the St. Johns Farmers Market with my family.  We listened to the Roosevelt High School jazz band.  I encouraged my husband (a jazz trumpeter and educator at PSU) to volunteer with their program next year.  The work continues little step by little step.  I think that’s the most important thing I learned in the last few days.  Each little step builds upon the last, and these steps do add up.  The more I get involved, the more I want to be more involved.  And the more I want to be more involved, the more I want my students and family members to be more involved in building the community of people dedicated to social justice and to supporting education.

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2 thoughts on “Becoming an Activist: Little Steps, One Week (A Picture Diary)

  1. Great post, Zapoura. I think it’s important to agitate on an individual level and take personal steps to address the iniquities we witness. The inclusion of photos add further depth to your volunteer stories. Inspiring.

  2. Thanks, Tyler! I agree that hearing or reading about what activism or becoming more active actually looks like is so helpful. I’m always inspired by students who are involved, friends who do community work, etc. I’m also thinking about making a picture diary part of Capstone course work in the future. I think the concept works on a few levels that are important. The feedback was really helpful!

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