Tag Archives: Civil Rights

Freedom School Announces Classes on The Civil Rights Movement



The Mohawk Valley Freedom School will have three classes on the Black Freedom (Civil Rights) Movement this month. Local activist and Freedom School educator Alicia McWilliams will teach the classes. The first class on March 11th at 7:00pm will give an introduction to the Black Freedom Movement. Class will start with a screening of part of the powerful documentary on the subject Eyes on the Prize: America’s Civil Rights Years, 1954-1965.  This will lead into a discussion that compares the Civil Rights Movement with various social movements today. The second class on March 18th will continue this discussion. Students will be encouraged to do their own research before coming to class and present their findings on the Black Freedom struggle to the class at large. The next class on March 25th will go over the history of the FBI’s counter-intelligence program (COINTELPRO) which was created to destroy the Black Freedom, Black Power and New Left movements of the 1950s-1970s. As always, this history and these movements will be brought to the present as we ask the questions: how is this relevant to us today, how can we learn from this, and how do we move forward?

Alicia McWilliams is a dedicated activist and organizer who has been active in New York City, Utica and across the state and country. She has been very active in fighting for civil liberties, defending the Newburgh 4 and others unjustly targeted by the War on Terror, ending mass incarceration and the New Jim Crow, and with the Mohawk Valley Freedom School.

The Mohawk Valley Freedom School is located at Cornerstone Community Church, 500 Plant Street in Utica. Classes are from 7:00-8:30pm with a free dinner at 6:30pm. Please contact 732-2382 or mvfreedomschool@gmail.com. This class is free and open to the public and to people of all ages and backgrounds.


Observer Dispatch Covers the Mohawk Valley Freedom School!


Mohawk Valley Freedom School Promotes Social Activism


Brendan Dunn introduces the class to the syllabus as The Mohawk Valley Freedom School holds its first class Thursday evening at the Plymouth Bethesda United Church of Christ, Mar. 6, 2014, in Utica, N.Y. The school focuses on social and economic justice. (Photo by Mark DiOrio / Observer Dispatch)

Used to affect social change during the Civil Rights Movement, freedom schools are back with a renewed focus on intergenerational social activism.

And the Mohawk Valley Freedom School already is starting the discussion.

“It’s open to everyone,” said Brendan Dunn, school educator and founding member. “We really want to have a serious discussion about economic inequality, politics, about racism, about all of these things that affect us.”

Spawning out of the Occupy Utica movement, the school, operating at Cornerstone Community Church in Utica, is offering a three-month program geared toward high school students called “Social Movements, Social Change.”

The goal is to identify the needs of the community and empower students to influence change, Dunn said.

“That’s one thing that we see as really key to a successful freedom school is having students have a very direct say in their education and be part of the process of shaping their education.”

The group next will offer a summer program, and is discussing the possibility of opening a private school accessible to low-income students in grades kindergarten through 12th, Dunn said.

Freedom schools came out of the Civil Rights Movement in 1964 in Mississippi, providing summer education that was culturally and politically relevant to black students, and encouraging them to become active in the movement, he said.

In 2013 there were 181 sites nationwide, including six in New York, to offer a six-week summer program through community agencies, schools and the Children’s Defense Fund, a nonprofit child advocacy agency.

Each program is different based on the needs of the community.

The Chicago Freedom School, which started in 2007, focuses on creating new generations of independent, critical-thinking young people, said school Coordinator of Youth Programs Tony Alvarado-Rivera.

“(Throughout) history, young people have always been at the forefront of movement building and social justice,” he said.

Thomas R. Proctor High School senior Marquis Palmer, 17, has been instrumental in the formation of the school and is taking the first class.

Palmer, who was part of a student rally to protest Utica school cuts in 2012, said it’s his duty to help his community find solutions when problems arise.

“I really thought this was my way to help the progression of Utica, of the community,” he said.

Follow @OD_Clukey on Twitter or call her at 792-4956.
Read more: http://www.uticaod.com/article/20140306/News/140309542#ixzz2vOZjZilx

* The school is at Cornerstone Community Church, 500 Plant St., in Utica.

* It’s a community-lead school dedicated to social justice and social change.

* The school has after-school and summer programs and is free to the community. Classes are listed on its website (mvfreedomschool.wordpress.com).

* Those starting the school include educator Brendan Dunn; Thomas R. Proctor High School student Marquis Palmer; and Susan Johnston, Mohawk Valley Community College, College Science Technology Entry Program project assistant.

* Activists from Occupy Utica, local educators and high school students also are involved with the program.

* To get involved as a volunteer, or for information call 732-2382 or email mvfreedomschool@gmail.com.

Freedom schools

* The Mississippi Freedom Summer Project of 1964 was organized by leading Civil Rights organizations to engage black students and community volunteers in a variety of strategic activities to ensure basic citizenship rights for all Mississippians.

* The freedom schools provided reading instruction; humanities curriculum emphasizing English, foreign language, art and creative writing; and a general mathematics and science curriculum.

* The schools were structured to motivate young people to become critically engaged in their communities and to help them identify and design authentic solutions to local problems.

* The movement was reborn in 1992 with leader Marian Write Edelman and the Children’s Defense Fund’s Black Community Crusade for Children program. It included an increased focus on literacy, parent involvement, conflict resolution and social action.

* In 2013, there were 181 sites nationwide, six in New York, to offer a six-week summer freedom school program through community agencies, schools and the Children’s Defense Fund, a nonprofit child advocacy agency.

The Mohawk Valley Freedom School Starts This Thursday!



The Freedom School will start this Thursday, March 6 at 7:00pm with a free meal available just beforehand at 6:30pm. The location is in the school building of Cornerstone Community Church, 500 Plant Street in Utica. You can enter on the Plant Street entrance. Food will be served directly downstairs as you walk in and the classroom is directly upstairs and to the right as you walk in. The building is a busy and exciting place Thursdays so there will be other community groups and activities in the building at the same time.

Please call Brendan at 240-3149 or email freedomschoolmv@gmail.com with any concerns or questions.

Below is the curriculum for the first month of the three month program called Social Movements, Social Change.

Thursday, March 6
Freedom Schools – then and now.

Introduction, program outline, and a brief overview of popular education and Brazilian literacy educator and activist Paulo Freire. The majority of class time will be spent discussing the original Freedom Schools in Mississippi in 1964, the new wave of Freedom Schools, the Mohawk Valley Freedom School and what it all means to us.

Wednesday, March 12
Reading/discussion group of Paulo Freire’s acclaimed book Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Students, educators, activists and community members will meet for the first of several discussion groups. The book is available in its entirety online at

Thursday, March 13
The Unsung Heroes of the Black Freedom Movement

This class will open up a discussion about leadership, grassroots (horizontal) organizing and the “unsung heroes” of the Black Freedom (Civil Rights) Movement. We will look at people such as Ella Baker and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) as well as Fannie Lou Hamer and the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party. What can we learn from these individuals, organizations, and ideas? Come to this class to find out.

Thursday, March 20
The Black Panther Party: What We Want, What We Believe

Proctor High School student Marquis Palmer will lead discussion in this class about the Black Panther Party as we learn about the transition from Black Freedom to Black Power in the turbulent 1960s. We will discuss misconceptions about the Panthers, as well as the organization’s community programs, the multiracial Rainbow Coalition, and the FBI program COINTELPRO that targeted the Panthers. We will also have a discussion about the Ten Point Program of the organization.

Thursday, March 27
The Industrial Workers of the World: “An injury to one is an injury to all!”

We will switch gears in this class to discuss another social movement: the US labor movement and the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) labor union. We will look at local history and discuss the IWW textile workers strike in Little Falls in 1912. The discussion will mostly center around labor, workers’ rights, unions, and workplace organizing, with a special focus on our experiences as young workers.

Saturday, March 30 (10am – 5pm) -Sunday the 31st (10am – 4pm)
IWW Union Organizer Training

Union organizers from Utica and New York City will provide a free training open to Freedom School students and the general public for workers who want to learn how to improve their workplace conditions, form a union, and stand up for social justice on the job. This is an exciting training that has been given all over the US, Canada, Europe and Uganda and has lead directly to workers improving their workplace conditions and forming unions. Breakfast and lunch will also be provided.

April and May

Topics covered in these two months will include Africana studies, Latin American studies, social movements during the Great Depression of the 1930s, Palestine and Israel, the Arab Spring, social movements of the 1960s-70s, indigenous struggles, immigration, philosophy, political theory, the labor movement, as well as social movements in Mexico and Argentina. There will be some guest lecturers and student-teachers.

We will discuss dynamics of power, leadership, race, gender and class. We will discuss how social change happens, who the agents of change are, what obstacles people face, and what we can learn from past social movements. Most importantly, we will look at many different individuals, organizations and movements to inform us on what we can do to make positive change in our own community.