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NEWS & EVENTS

We, Too, Are America

Katie Rainey

Katie Rainey, STAFF

On December 3rd, TATIP reconvened for Day 5 of the training. However, this wasn't our usual training. We traveled uptown to the heart of Harlem and spent the day discussing and practicing what it means to teach for social justice in the brownstone that the poet Langston Hughes once inhabited. 

 

We had the pleasure of being the first artist collective to rent and use the space all thanks to former TATIP Facilitator Renée Watson and her new nonprofit I, Too, Arts Collective. A special thanks also goes to her assistant Kendolyn Walker, who made the day possible. 

The name I, Too, Arts Collective comes from the Langston Hughes poem "I, Too". 

I, Too by Langston Hughes, 1902 - 1967

I, too, sing America.

I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen
When company comes,
But I laugh,
And eat well,
And grow strong.

Tomorrow,
I’ll be at the table
When company comes.
Nobody’ll dare
Say to me,
“Eat in the kitchen,"
Then.

Besides, 
They’ll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed—

I, too, am America. 

We feel so honored to be the first group to work in this house through I, Too, Arts Collective and we look forward to many years of creating together.

 

After hearing Renée talk about the house and nonprofit, we set to work on the day's agenda, beginning with an opening led by facilitator Heidi Miller. She led us through an inquiry session based on the I, Too poem by Langston Hughes (above) that fed into a writing exercise, prompting us to notice the house and respond to it. The trainees were then asked to create three movements based off their writing. 

The activity culminated in a combination reading and performance by a few participants.

It was an excellent way to honor the space and Langston, as well as prepare ourselves for the day's work ahead.

 

From there, we moved onto philosophy of education, which is deeply ingrained into any strong pedagogy. We modeled one of CWP's teaching philosophies, teaching for social justice, as an example of a teaching philosophy and discussed how that influences our pedagogy. At CWP, this means we bring artists and works of art in to study, then we get students to create artistic responses to their lives. We also use inquiry and reflection to consider their creations, inviting multiple perspectives into the space and building community. 

Then, it was time for the trainees to dive into their own philosophies of education. Around the room, different quotes by education philosophers were hung on the walls and the trainees spent time reflecting on each one. 

 

The trainees then created their own philosophies of education. 

The participants used markers, glue, scissors, tissue paper, and all sorts of other crafts to create colorful philosophy boards. They spent time reading one another's to note how they were similar and how they varied. 

The final part of the day was split into two sections. During the first half, we focused on classroom management techniques, first by illustrating what a poorly managed classroom looks like through a series of group skits. (Many trainees had a little too much fun pretending to be an unruly student!)

Then, we closed the day out with a little game of Bingo, played to the TedTalk by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie called "The Dangers of a Single Story"

It was a truly magical day. Often throughout the workshop, the sunlight would filter and fill the room. It was as if Langston himself was nodding at our work. We certainly felt his presence and even got to work next to his famous typewriter!

 

We'll be back at The Drama League again next week, but we'd just like to thank Renée Watson, Kendolyn Walker and the I, Too, Arts Collective once again for allowing us to work and reflect in the space. It was a truly beautiful day.

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