Today we have another guest blog post, this one from Miles Mitchell, a student in the Tyree Scott Freedom School. The Freedom School is a 9-day social and racial justice training program for young people in Seattle. I am sponsoring a forum in the Bertha Knight Landis room at City Hall where Freedom School students will be coming to City Hall today to share their vision for a socially and racially just Seattle with city leaders from various departments. I think this event is an important part of the Race and Social Justice Initiative work we are engaged in here in Seattle. The session will be recorded by the Seattle Channel and will air in the coming weeks. Thanks to Miles for sharing his experience in the Freedom School, I look forward to today’s discussion with these inspiring, passionate young people.
After being selected to participate in Freedom School, I became more and more apprehensive about participating in the program as the first day of “School” approached. Indeed many of my suspicions and fears of Freedom School were similar to my fears of entering high school. I wondered about how I would fit in with the other students and about the legitimacy of the instructors. Would it be easy to make friends? Would the instructors be boring? Were they trying to brainwash us with cult-like efficiency? Would the free lunches be edible? I was genuinely concerned—even anxious—with these prudent questions, especially the last one. However, after completing the program, I am glad to announce that I was more than pleased the outcome of the program.
The first day of Freedom School arrived, and after riding from my home in Redmond to Beacon Hill, I could finally answer my questions about the program. I was immediately taken by the diversity of the group. Every race and socio-economic background was represented. Having been accustomed to playing the role of “the black kid” in predominantly white settings, seeing the variety of colors in the room was reassuring. After all, the program was about racism. How comfortable would it be to talk about racism with an all white group? We began the day by forming a circle and going around introducing ourselves and responding to the question of why it is important to end racism. In hearing each student’s response, it became clear to that I was amongst a group of highly aware, genuinely concerned high school and college students. I could now justify the amount of money I spent in bus fare every morning to attend Freedom School.
At the Freedom School, I become part of a cohort of diverse social scholars from an array of backgrounds yet commonly concerned with institutionalized racism and its implications for people of color. Over the span of two weeks, we were able to comfortably share our ideas and opinions and develop one another intellectually while building friendships. In addition, the instructors at Freedom School far exceeded my initial expectations. Each of them cared about our opinions but also challenged us to expand how we analyze the social issues facing our communities and our world. Instead of treating us like children, they respected us as colleagues, placing their faith in us to become future organizers and ultimately a part of the solution to end racism.
The Freedom School has opened my eyes to the complexity of the problems facing our society today. We discussed the causes of poverty in the United States and the institutionalized systems of oppression that affect people of color, being exposed the opinions of the instructors and guest speakers from organizations like the US Military, the former Black Panther Party, and the District Attorney’s Office of Seattle. We also looked into ourselves and discussed racism, race, power, as well as internalized racial inferiority (and superiority). That being said, I am more optimistic about my future after going through the program, and I feel galvanized to speak out about racism and social justice. Most importantly, however, Freedom School has equipped my peers and me to be able to organize for the sake of ending racism and creating an equitable society for myself and my posterity.