Aya Academy of Excellence

Holler If You Here Me


This is a quick convergence of two thoughts regarding change.. First, art plays a critical role in shaping thought and inspiring change. (see Theory of Aesthetics) This summer, Kenny Leon, an alum of Clark Atlanta University, is developing a Broadway musical production with a slated opening for summer 2014. The prevailing themes of hope and friendship are set to the lyrics of artist Tupac Shakur. I am curious how Mr. Leon will present these themes in the context of Mr. Shakur’s work.

Prior to his passing, Mr. Shakur penned the following enduring lyrics in his song Changes:

“We gotta make a change.
It’s time for us as a people to start making some changes.
Let’s change the way we eat.
Let’s change the way we live.
And let’s change the way we treat each other.”

My second thought related to change was sparked by a two-hour video I watched this morning. While viewing a 2007 discussion on community mobilization presented by Angela Davis at the University of Oregon, I kept thinking of the students in a local afterschool program. These children are combatting pervasive issues of poverty, crime and abuse, simultaneously, while striving to learn academic skill sets to assist in their development into self-sustaining individuals. The community challenges the students are grappling with permeate the school walls and the internal culture is at times, chaotic, stressful and combative. The teachers are tired, the administration is on the verge of burn out and the children waver between apathy and momentary amusement. Ms. Davis could have been speaking directly to this school’s community when she stated,

“Students due not learn how to value knowledge, especially in black Hispanic and poor communities, instead they learn that going to school is being disciplined – prep school for prison.”

Within these walls, there is a lack of joy, a lack of inspiration and a lack of hope.

So in the midst of this culture, and while listening to Professor Davis’ thoughts on the role of self reflection and critical thinking in building structural changes for empowered communities, I created a quick interactive game for families or classes to play to assist young people with developing personal empowerment so that they can take charge of their own trajectories and to begin working collaboratively to better their own neighborhoods.

The game is called changes. Every time a participant answers in the affirmative, they move forward one space to demonstrate that this is a choice they have made or have a willingness to make. The goal is for them to connect to the thought that certain decisions will add value to their lives and will lead them to a more productive future. The participants can and should discuss their choices with each step they make. The statements can be added or modified to suit the needs of the learners. These statements are based on my personal view that self-sustainable and emotionally healthy individuals, think critically, do not operate within monolithic spheres, regard multiple viewpoints as opportunities for growth, embrace art, balance their intellectual and physical development, seek to support their local and global community, nurture their artistic skill sets and value their own voice.

Math is hard. Go online and practice for 30 minutes each night for the next 3 weeks.
Build a model of a bridge, robot or skeleton.
Join an afterschool club to learn something new.
Spend a Saturday afternoon each month volunteering to help others.
Organize others to clean up your school.
Read independently every day.
Read the newspaper or watch the news from multiple news outlets.
Have conversations with people who have different views then your own.
Read biographies about world and community leaders.
You are given $100 for a gift. Opt to save the money instead of spending it on new outfit.
Teacher assigns you detention for something you didn’t do. You speak to the teach after class to discuss your point of view.
You get 1 hour of computer time. You decide to go online and visit a virtual field trip site.
Keep a journal and jot down your thoughts.
Your closest friends cut classes. You distance yourself from them.
Create sketches, doodles, poems or lyrics in your free time.
Learn and Practice a second language.
Develop your own set rules to help you decide what is right and wrong.
Read affirmations daily.
Exercise or meditate daily.
Eat a large salad with a bottle of water instead of combo meal with a large soda.

My intended post on community mobilization and the role education plays in this effort will be forthcoming. Just had to share this and hope it helps those who work with empowering marginalized youth.


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