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Students Present PLEJ for Liberation Program at NYCoRE Conference

NYCoRE Conference 2015: Justice Not Just-Tests 
Date: Saturday, March 21, 2015
Location: James Baldwin School, 351 West 18th Street, Manhattan, NY 10011

11th graders Abby M, Grace M, Jade HP, Patonya P, & Sierra V presented at the New York Collective of Radical Educators (NYCoRE) conference during Spring Break to raise awareness about solitary confinement and the Power Love Education and Justice (PLEJ) for Liberation program that they co-created with their incarcerated pen-pal Mume, founder of the Human Rights Pen-Pal Program Sharon Martinas, and BFS Director of Service Learning & Civic Engagement Natania Kremer.

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Goals of the Conference

  • To share information and critical thinking around the conference theme, namely imagining possibilities for justice and liberation for education.
  • To provide rights-holders in the education system with information and new ideas that can strengthen our effectiveness as activists, both inside and outside of our classrooms (and other sites)
  • To forge connections between and among educators, researchers, parents, activists, and students, fostering new and innovative partnerships and collaborations
  • To develop structures for ongoing discussion and working groups about education and social justice
  • To organize a national voice in the ongoing debate over education reform
  • To plan actions, advocacy, future meetings
  • To bridge the gap between youth and educators by creating a space to make young voices heard
  • To develop and share ideas for inspiring practice, both inside classrooms and in communities

Session Title: Students’ PLEJ for Liberation: Human Rights Pen-Pal Program

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Grace: We “had been planning to present at the NYCORE conference for several months. March 21st was the conference and we had written pages of notes and created a long slide show. When we got to the James Baldwin School Abby and I lay down a 6ft x 8ft box of tape on the floor to present the size of a solitary confinement cell. From 3:30 to 5pm we talked about the misconceptions about prisons, realities of racial and sexual discrimination in the justice system, cruelty of solitary confinement and the prison-to-school pipeline. I talked about the stereotypes in the media and how our perspectives are affected by Hollywood. After our presentation a bunch of college students came up to us to tell us how impressed they were and how much they learned from our presentation. They told us that they are interested in pursuing communicating with inmates like we did and were going to try to arrange a program with their schools. I didn’t expect our presentation to inspire many people but I felt like I made at least a small change.

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Sierra: A group of five girls, including myself led a workshop about a program which combated the injustices in practices of solitary confinement in the prison industrial complex. The goal of this workshop is to bring awareness surrounding solitary confinement its damages toward the individual. Another goal is to inspire others to take action against this injustice by involving in the pen-pal program with people in solitary confinement… For this day, we had to prepare a presentation and we each had a topic that we will cover. We had all gone over our individual parts and planned on assisting each other throughout the presentation. We prepared discussions and had multiple questions to interact with the audience with. We presented our topic and were able to receive positive feedback regarding our presentation.

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Jade: Presenting at the NYCoRE Conference was a rewarding experience for me. Working together with my peers to bring light onto issues in our society that are personal to us was the best experience to embark on. I was nervous at first to present because I wanted everything to work out how we planned it to and I didn’t want to let my peers down if I messed up. Natania has helped me so much in gaining knowledge on social justice issues through our 10th Grade Seminar class and continues to help me in my junior year, and she encourages me to take action to help solve problems that I am passionate about. Having her there and adults, such as Jesse Phillips-Fein and Orinthia Swindell as a support system calmed my nerves and I became more comfortable to speak. Having a safe environment and being comfortable is something that is important to me and my performance, which was definitely created through the adults there and my peers. I was proud to have shared all that we have done, especially when I shared a painting that one of my peers had drawn for our LGBTQ Awareness workshop during Global Youth Service Day last year. We put in a lot of work and time into preparing for the workshop. I am glad to have had the opportunity to present at this conference and it has given me the strength to want to do even bigger and better things in the future relating to social justic

Powerful Student Presentations

BFS Students’ PLEJ for Liberation presentation at NYCoRE from Brooklyn Friends School on Vimeo.