May 21, 2021 | Rev. Nicole Caldwell-Gross
What is Freedom School?
It was electric. The energy. The pride. The joy as 100 black and brown students screamed out from the top of their lungs: “I KNOW I CAN BE WHAT I WANT TO BE! IF I WORK HARD AT IT- I’LL BE WHERE I WANT TO BE!” The year was 2010 and it was the first time I saw the power and impact of a Freedom School. Before this experience I thought that this program would be like any other church summer program. They would be a few games, the usual crafts and maybe even a field trip here or there. But I was wrong. Freedom School is not a run-of-the-mill church summer program- it’s a transformational leadership development initiative for the next generation of leaders. Centered around literacy, children read books daily that reflect characters and leaders who look like them. Every morning local politicians, teachers, church members, business owners and others would are introduced to the scholars and share their stories.
Then something magical happens-HARAMBE. Harambe is a Swahili word for “let’s get together” and during this time children chant words, songs and poems of affirmation speaking life and possibility over themselves and their community. Students play, learn and are introduced to the tenets and values of the civil rights movement. As young as kindergarten- they are told that they are leaders and that they can make a difference in their communities. At summers end the scholars complete their own community justice project and mobilize their parents and others to join them in their work.
As I look back at Freedom School and the difference it made in my community 10 years ago I’ve never been more happy to be wrong! And now, because I know that Freedom School is right- I cannot wait to see it at St. Luke’s. St. Luke’s is surrounded by a school district that is rapidly changing. Over the last five years the demographics of the neighboring elementary schools reflects a rise in food insecurity, racial, ethnic and linguistic diversity. If we are to truly be an open community of Christians helping others find and give hope through Jesus Christ -then we must answer the call to raise up the next generation. To not only give backpacks or food which are good and necessary but to give the gift of helping children seeing themselves as good and necessary.I can’t wait until we feel that same electric energy flowing through our sanctuary as students scream at the top of their lungs, “ I KNOW I CAN! “
And I know, that we can build this together.
-Rev. Nicole Caldwell-Gross