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Chicago Freedom School and How To Build Confidence in Black Youth

It is always amazing to me when organizations find interventions that can radically change the way young people view their place in the world. As you can see in the video, this is an example of how Chicago Freedom School uses music and chants to build the self-efficacy of young people. There is something incredibly powerful about music in any type of community building process. In this particular instance it is even more encouraging to see black youth building their confidence in what is essentially a literacy program. The history of Chicago Freedom Schools is one that is important to know, but also this organization should be highlighted for challenging some of the disparities that exist in the school system.

When examining the discourse on disproportionality and inequalities that occur in schools, we must be deliberate in talking about how race impacts the lives of Black Youth, particularly in the places where young people spend a third of their time: schools.  The Children’s defense fund stated, “In Illinois, for every 100 Asian/Pacific Islander students enrolled in the public schools, there were 1.7 suspensions; 2.9 suspensions for American Indian/Alaska Native students; 3.8 suspensions for White students; 6.0 suspensions for Latino students and 14.5 suspensions for African American students.” With staggering statistics like this proving disproportionate treatment in schools, it is important for service providers in schools to understand how to talk about race and stigmatization, but furthermore its important to know how to build the self-efficacy of young people who are victims of stigmatization based on race.

The Chicago Freedom School “provides a space where young people and adult allies can study the work of past movements, deepen their understanding of current social problems, build new coalitions and develop strategies for change.  They support new generations of critical and independent thinking young people who use their unique experiences and power to create a just world.” The origin of the freedom school is found in the trenches of the civil rights movement. In 1964 freedom schools were geared towards unraveling racist education policy that paid about 81 dollars to education white students and about 21 dollars to educate black students. During the summer freedom rides students from the north would participate in freedoms in Mississippi and all across the south. Freedom school remains now as institutions still trying to unravel the impacts of educational inequality.

If one wants to see how to encourage, build-up, and support black youth, they should examine the activities and outcomes of the freedom schools across the country. They very skillfully and engagingly build the confidence of black youth through basing their interventions within the historical narrative of the civil rights movement and in the fun community building process of self-motivating music. Here are the lyrics to the song they are singing above, if only more black youth were told lyrics like these:

The higher you build your barriers

The taller I become

The farther you take my rights away

The faster I will run

You can deny me

You can decide to turn your face away

No matter, cos there’s….

Something inside so strong

I know that I can make it

Tho’ you’re doing me wrong, so wrong

You thought that my pride was gone

Oh no, something inside so strong

Oh oh oh oh oh something inside so strong

The more you refuse to hear my voice

The louder I will sing

You hide behind walls of Jericho

Your lies will come tumbling

Deny my place in time

You squander wealth that’s mine

My light will shine so brightly

It will blind you

Cos there’s……

Something inside so strong

I know that I can make it

Tho’ you’re doing me wrong, so wrong

You thought that my pride was gone

Oh no, something inside so strong

Oh oh oh oh oh something inside so strong