Category: Uncategorized

Ain’t Nobody Got Grey Arms

Aminah is a brown skinned person wearing a blag wide brim hat and white long sleeve shirt with hands outstretched

by Aminah Decé

Wind is rushing through the skies delivering urgent messages to the corners of Arroyo City.

The hypnotic push and pull of the waves are a sensual lullaby to the acrobatic fish who stretch as they prepare for their breakfast dance with the pelicans.

I am sitting, swaying to this melody reflecting as the last days of the Nepantla Residency creep upon me. I have never spent this much time on a pier. Not a private one. It is divided into sections of three. The wood rots on either end keep secrets of our hostesses’ family; her childhood and its past life. A hurricane paved the way for new wood. I still see marks and instructions left by the construction crew. My condo is about this size I’m sure.

I recall the evening I drove up to the site. The two small houses could be mistaken for Monopoly homes on the urban side of the board. They were modest. Tattered white and blue tint dressed the exterior walls while scenes of The Last Supper sat below the ceilings. Summer camp ran through my bones. Except, I was here by choice and my life would change forever.

Under the lights of a dazzling night sky, on the old section of the pier, I introduced myself to the first fellow resident who arrived. She is from the Valley. She is home, comfortable, and enthusiastic about Queer and Ethnic Studies; all things Indigenous, Black, and Brown. Black and Brown.

More residents trickled in.

More introductions, theories, identities, labels…

More Black and Brown.

More African American, Black Folks, White Folks; mas P.O.C.

I listened and observed, learned the lingo of the LGBTQIA+ community I am presumed to exist within. Amidst the chatter, I picked up a commanding voice, expressing the importance of respecting the choice of gender identity. According to the story, a parent was taking birthday photos of his son in pants and a dress just in case they chose to identify as a woman in the future. “They will be grateful to have baby pictures they can choose from.” How considerate, I thought. I was forced to wear clothing that made me feel uncomfortable; pants and dresses. I have childhood photos that I still shudder at the remembrance of; pants and dresses.

El chisme contiñuó, “Misgendering an individual is violent. Violent por que it perpetuates homophobia.” I glanced above the rim of my glasses, stretching my pupils like fingers over a border wall. “Misgendering is violent and perpetuates homophobia?” I asked between my silver spoon and Cocoa Rice Krispies. “Si. It’s traumatizing to be called something you’re not,” she exclaimed.

Immediately I began to disassociate and time traveled. I was bullied in junior high. My mother was in the Army and we moved often. I had been accustomed to starting anew every other year or so, but this school, these kids were different. I met them in 3rd grade, made friends, then moved before we took class pictures. Fate would reunite us in 6th grade. Unfortunately, time did not make the heart grow fonder. I remembered them, each one, but I had been forgotten. So much so that I was the “new” girl and ripe for pranks, isolation, and name-calling. I brought this to the attention of the school counselor, the principal, and my family. I learned that I was too sensitive and needed to develop a thicker skin. “Sticks and stones break bones” I was told and that I would find difficulty in life being overly concerned with what others said about me. I did not know then that the name-calling would continue. I did not know that the world identified me as Negro, Black, African-American, a P.O.C, Queer. Oh, what a struggle it has been to shed light on the violence and trauma.

I found refuge in Spoken Word and Poetry. The visual arts saved my life and led me to Nepantla. Between eating, singing, dancing, freezing, crying and sharing stories I had been quietly crafting my art series for critique. I shared a graffiti piece; my love for letters on canvas. It was a collage of text, vinyl records, acrylic paints, and legal documents made to conjure the past; a moment that dominated two years of my sanity and had currently held space in my art studio. I carried the burden for ten years, from California to Texas, between storage and four homes… Finally, I was processing and receiving feedback.

The aesthetic earned rave reviews with constructive suggestions for improvement and as expected, the narrative of police brutality and legal injustice sparked a fire of P.O.C discussion.

“BLACK AND BROWN!”

“MAS AFRICAN AMERICAN, BLACK FOLKS, WHITE FOLKS!”

“As a Queer, Black Woman facing racism you…”

I interrupted; I normally let these identifiers go. “Sticks and stones” I learned, but I had been silent long enough. After thanking my peers for their feedback, I put the proverbial foot down and informed them, “I am not Queer or Black. I do not identify with those terms and I do not believe in racism.”

There was a slight hush; an awkward pause. I thought I heard someone swallow their disbelief.

“Of course you are.”

“What do you mean?”

“The world sees race. Society sees you as Black so…”

I knew these questions would come, but I did not anticipate the shock and awe at Nepantla. After all, this was Las Otras. Unquestionable acceptance towards one’s identity was the constant topic of discussion since I had arrived. Though I am passionate about the topic, it brings anxiety también. Explaining is difficult. Rome was not built in a day.

I fell back on my training. How would I navigate these delusions with my students? Scaffolding, background knowledge, visuals, manipulatives…manipulatives! I found three crayons; black, brown, and white. I held each against the copper tone of my mothers’. My heirloom.

“Which one of these crayons best represents the complexion of my skin?”

The clock ticked five times, ten…twenty times. I knew not to interrupt the thinking process.

“Um, brown?” someone hesitated.

I saw confusion and amazement mushroom cloud around the room. It was like…coming out. There was more I wanted to say, but my work for the night was done. These revelations are heavy and so I chose to let the dust settle. The residency was just beginning.

I am an advocate for arts education. Yes, it is important to teach others the value of self-expression and the skills to develop artworks, etc., but what I love the most is utilizing the arts as a tool to investigate the legitimacy of concepts that plague society and create division among its populace. Concepts, like race, that uphold structures of generational supremacy, violence, and injustice that we have foolishly accepted as law. There are vast studies on the topic, some long before I was born, so I acknowledge the works of those who have preceded me. These thoughts of mine are not new and I assert no claim of discovery. What I do feel is a need for simplification. How can we ingest such a large creature? One that is fighting to live in hearts and minds? I suggest that through the study of the elements and principles of art we can do more than train our eyes and hands for aesthetics and craft, but also unlearn the curse of supremacist divisions. With just a few crayons, I found that I could ignite a bit of curiosity inside and outside of the classroom. It takes only a small seed of doubt of the established norm to slowly lift the veil of ignorance surrounding race and racial identity.

It is one thing to be anti this or pro that and another to effectively transform perception and behavior. Amid protests, riots, lawsuits, etc. are rigid minds who believe what they believe and know what they know. No matter which side of the line we ground ourselves upon, what we know are masterful illusions designed by master criminals with goals of acquiring power, profit, and leisure. How mighty are they to have convinced us that Santa Claus is real? That there is such a thing as Black and White people?

One of my students’ favorite activities is finger painting and through color theory, I challenge their perceptions. All visual arts instructors have a lesson on value. We teach our students that value is the brightness or darkness of an object and proceed with demonstrating a range of value via a scale.

My students are prepped and already thinking about their racial identity and the value that they derive from it. Some students identify as White; others Black. They dip their fingers in White paint and scribble across a few pre-drawn boxes. They titrate, add a little bit of Black paint, run their fingers across the next box, and repeat until the last one is completely Black. They are excited that they’ve created a value scale based on their racial identity. I encourage them to compare their arms to their art.

“Which box looks the most like you? Which box represents your value?”

They eagerly guess which square they fit in, review every single tone and laugh with each other until there is complete silence in the room.

“Ms. don’t none of these boxes look like our arms. Ain’t nobody in here got grey arms Ms.”

 

About Aminah

Li’ilt Nidan, Parham La Tasha Aminah Decé sprang from the soil of The Great River, Biloxi. Aminah celebrates a diverse heritage, tracing her lineage through many rich cultures including, the Medjai Warriors of the House of Shewa, Nubia, the Bantu peoples of the Ivory Coast, and the Mound Builders of Mississippi.

Aminah is trained at the World Combat Academy, Institute of Martial Science, and maintains degrees in The Humanities, Fine Arts & Art History/Criticism from The University of Texas, San Antonio. Under the pseudonym P16, she began her artistic journey as a slam poet in Killeen, Texas.

Through a variety of media and performances, Aminah expresses her personal experiences and discredits the concepts of race and supremacy. Contributing as a researcher and curator for the Institute of Texan Culture initiated the birth of Progrés Studios, The Social Soulstice, and A OK Art House. Aminah utilizes these entities to collaborate with artists and organizations to create Happenings and to facilitate visual and literary art workshops in the community. Aminah also served as a visual arts instructor for Judson Independent School District for seven years, sharpening her skills as a curriculum writer and mentor before transitioning to a full time Teaching Artist. Her mission is to assist herself and humanity in mastering their academic, socioemotional/metaphysical, and self-control traits. She finds that the serious study and application of the Arts heal and empower minds to manifest satisfying and productive lives.

Aminah is also a member of Return of the Matriarch, a musical group completed by San Antonio’s Poet Laureate, Andrea “Vocab” Sanderson. Together ROTM has featured their message of youth and women empowerment at South by Southwest, Luminaria, The McNay Art Museum, San Antonio Art Museum, The Carver Community Cultural Center, and various schools and universities in the Central Texas region. Return of the Matriarch is currently preparing for the release of their long-awaited album, Queendom Come.

“I would not be where I am without the support of my village; without beings guiding and assisting me in maintaining balance. Art is life. I live a little, teach a little.” -Aminah Decé

MAYOR DE BLASIO AND CHANCELLOR PORTER ANNOUNCE ACADEMIC RECOVERY PLAN FOR PIVOTAL SCHOOL YEAR AHEAD

$635M historic investment to jumpstart academic achievement for every student 

NEW YORK – Mayor Bill de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Meisha Porter today announced their academic recovery vision for New York City’s public schools and students in the wake of the pandemic. The bold, rigorous framework will guide school communities and support students during the 2021-22 school year and beyond, stressing six critical areas of focus: early literacy for all, developing students as digital citizens, preparing students to be college- and career-ready, investing in special education services, building a rigorous and inclusive universal curriculum, and investing in social emotional supports for every student. In addition, each focus area includes dedicated supports for multilingual learners and immigrant students to address their unique needs and support their academic progress and language acquisition. 

“Our kids deserve the best that New York City has to offer. That’s why we’re rolling out the NYC Universal Academic Recovery Plan when schools open their doors this September,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “It’s not enough to only get our kids back in the classroom. We have got to close the COVID achievement gap. And we will do that by reaching every child and supporting them—academically, emotionally, and socially—every step of the way.” 

“This historic, high-impact investment in the academic growth and success of New York City’s students will allow us to come back from the COVID-19 pandemic stronger than ever,” said Schools Chancellor Meisha Porter. “This fall, we will welcome our students back to schools that are prepared to support them academically and emotionally after all they have been through – that’s what the Universal Academic Recovery Plan is all about.”

 

Early Literacy for All – $49M in FY22

This administration will redouble its commitment to early literacy by investing in screening and intervention for students in Kindergarten through 2nd grade, with a singular goal of all students reading on grade level by the end of 2nd grade. To accomplish this, schools will use a universal literacy screener for all K-2 students. The screeners will identify risk for dyslexia, as well as other challenges and print-based disabilities, and schools will implement intervention plans based on the results.

The Department of Education (DOE) will support schools through the literacy intervention process by:

  • Targeted class size reduction achieved through hiring approximately 140 teachers in 72 higher need elementary schools.
  • Bringing the number of Universal Literacy reading coaches to approximately 500 to provide all early childhood and K-2 classrooms with a literacy coach, and training K-2 educators to provide literacy supports to students in need.
  • Training ENL, bilingual and content area teachers to track student progress and provide targeted supports for multilingual learners.
  • In addition to the $49M investment, the DOE is providing funds to all schools to use for targeted supports for students, such as tutoring, extended day, and enrichment activities.

 

Devices for Digital Citizens – $122M in FY22

The pandemic led to an unprecedented investment in technology, with over 800,000 devices purchased by the NYCDOE and schools. The Academic Recovery Plan leaves remote learning behind but builds on this technological advancement by guaranteeing all students have access to a digital device and ensuring all students become fully fluent digital citizens for the new economy. As part of this commitment, the DOE will:

  • Guarantee a device available for every K-12 student by delivering 175,000 more devices.
  • Expand access to the City’s rigorous Computer Science 4 All initiative to 400,000 students by 2024.
  • Train over 5,000 educators in advanced computer science.
  • Launch a technology capstone project for all 8th grade students to demonstrate digital literacy skills.

 

Preparing Students to be College- and Career-Ready – $10M in FY22

As the City recovers from the pandemic, preparing students to graduate college- and career-ready is more important than ever. The Academic Recovery Plan will ensure every student, whether heading to college or a career, is best prepared for the next step in life. It makes multiple investments that benefit every high school student, including:

  • Free, afterschool, personalized college counseling for every junior and senior.
  • Universal College Financial Aid Guidance to help navigate the application process, available in multiple languages.
  • 48 new remote AP college-prep courses.
  • College Now restoration to serve 22,000 students from all high schools in dual enrollment, college-credit courses across 18 CUNY campuses.
  • Immigrant Ambassador Programs across 30 high schools that match immigrant DOE students with college students to foster mentorship and early college awareness.
  • Student Success Centers for 34 high schools to ensure post-grad plans for all students, and expanding the Postsecondary Readiness for ELLs Program (PREP), to be facilitated by a select group of school counselors and educators. 

 

Special Education Investments – $251M in FY22

The pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on our student with disabilities. The Academic Recovery Plan will make every resource available to better support students with Individualized Education Programs (IEPs). It extends from the DOE’s youngest learners to students preparing for graduation by:

  • Launching afterschool and Saturday programs for all students with IEPs to receive additional instruction and related services.
  • Adding 800 preschool special education seats by fall 2022.
  • Expanding Committees on Preschool Special Education to expedite evaluations and IEP meetings.
  • Providing eligible students ages 21+ with continued instruction toward receiving their diploma or other exit credential, or to receive consultation to facilitate post-secondary plans for college and career readiness.
  • Expanding family workshops and information sessions through our Beyond Access Series, which supports families of students with disabilities.

 

Universal Mosaic Curriculum – $202M in FY22

New York City will develop a rigorous, inclusive, and affirming curriculum by fall 2023 – the Universal Mosaic Curriculum. Currently, there is no single off-the-shelf curriculum academically rigorous and inclusive enough for New York City’s 1,600 schools and one million students. This curriculum will be built on Literacy for All, accelerate student learning, and free teachers from time-consuming curriculum development.

The DOE will create a comprehensive ELA and Math curriculum that engages all students and prepares them for success in school and life by:

  • Providing an unprecedented infusion of books into every classroom for next school year that reflect the variety of histories, languages and experiences that make up the City.
  • Providing schools with dedicated funding to purchase texts in home languages and build home language libraries to support multilingual learners.
  • Developing brand new training and support materials for the Arts, ELA, Math, Arts, and more, in partnership with New York City educators, beginning next year.
  • Launching new targeted professional development lessons for teachers.

  

Social Emotional Supports for Every Student (Funding Previously Announced)

Children in every community are carrying trauma caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and a successful academic recovery can only happen when the emotional and mental health needs of students are taken care of. As previously announced, the DOE is significantly investing in every student by:

  • Hiring over 500 social workers and other mental health support staff to guarantee that every school has resources to support students who may be in crisis.
  • Adding over 130 new community schools to provide expanded social, emotional, academic, and extracurricular services to students in the highest need communities.
  • Conducting wellness checks and social-emotional learning support to identify multilingual learners and their needs, particularly in transitioning to full time in-person learning.
  • Using a social emotional screening tool to help identify students in need and quickly match them with services.

The academic recovery vision demonstrates the DOE’s commitment to lifting up New York City’s school communities beginning as early as September 2021, and ensuring they have the resources to recover stronger than ever from the impacts of the pandemic for years to come.

“New York City’s Academic Recovery Plan is a significant investment in the full set of tools children need to succeed. This program is made possible by the American Rescue Plan, an unprecedented commitment of federal funding to help schools reopen safely, meet students’ social, emotional and mental health needs, and address disparities in academic opportunities. The American Rescue Plan provided school districts with the flexibility to design and implement the programming that works best for them. With the Academic Recovery Plan, New York City will welcome students back this fall with a vision that will empower communities to help students thrive,” U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona.

“Chancellor Porter and Mayor DeBlasio are showing tremendous leadership by ensuring that federal and local dollars are working to assist the tremendous investments needed in student learning. Their surgical efforts to promote best practices to support students is a shining example of how we must continue to be urgent and tactical in doing all that we can to invest in children,” said Congressman Jamaal Bowman.

“COVID-19 has placed a tremendous strain on students and educators who have faced unfathomable challenges during this public health emergency,” said Congressman Adriano Espaillat (NY-13). “As our city reopens and prepares for the upcoming school year, it remains vital that we work to address and remove the roadblocks that students, families and teachers faced and ensure that we implement the most inclusive and accessible programs as we work to build back better and put our students on a path toward achievement and success. I commend Mayor de Blasio and Chancellor Porter on today’s historic announcement and look forward to continuing my efforts at the federal level to ensure New York City students and families have the support needed during our recovery and reopening of the school year ahead.”

“As a former educator, I know the difference that investing in our schools and students can make. I’m very proud of the funding we were able to bring home to New York City through our federal covid response legislation, including the American Rescue Plan. I look forward to continuing to work with the Mayor and Chancellor Porter on bettering education for all of New York City’s students,” said Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney.

“As a parent advocate, I welcome the city’s universal academic recovery vision with great hope. It is critical for students in communities like the district I represent, who face significant educational and economic challenges, to be fully supported in their public school classrooms. Today by providing a roadmap for this $630M investment, the city is moving in the right direction. There is much more to be done with the increased state and federal funding to meet the priorities and needs of parents, teachers, and students—especially around reducing class sizes—but this plan puts us on the path to the brighter future our children deserve,” said Senator Robert Jackson.

 “The Mayor and Chancellor are advancing a bold vision for NYC K-12 students, an idea made possible by our state budget finally accounting for the Campaign for Fiscal Equity ruling”, said Senator Roxanne J. Persaud. “Equitable funding across our state and fair funding across our City will ensure that school children have access to strong education programs and wrap-around services in the coming year and many years after that.”  

The pandemic has left an indelible mark on the education of our scholars. With remote and blended learning being a challenge for so many families in so many ways, we must make all strides necessary to regain ground that many of our students may have lost. The comprehensive wraparound services being planned under the universal academic recovery vision are not only laudable, but they are critical. Everything from providing digital toolkits and hardware to the investment of the social well-being and health of our students will have an impact and must be implemented in a manner that meets students and administrators where they are. I commend Mayor de Blasio and Chancellor Porter for putting forth this initiative and I look forward to working with my colleagues to ensure that every student in SD 14 can have full access to these resources,” said Senator Leroy Comrie

“The transition to online learning during the COVID-19 pandemic revealed systemic flaws and inequities in our education system that have been present for decades. This historic investment in our schools is crucial to create an education system that is equitable and ensures that all students are college-and-career ready, regardless of their background or location. I look forward to working with Mayor de Blasio and Chancellor Porter to ensure that all of our students are supported and have the resources to recover stronger than ever from the impacts of the pandemic and succeed,” said Senator Alessandra Biaggi.

“By funding our schools, reducing class sizes in elementary schools, adding literacy coaches, and investing in technology for K-12 students, we can ensure more equitable academic outcomes for young New Yorkers,” said Assemblymember Rodneyse Bichotte Hermelyn. “I applaud the Mayor and Chancellor Porter for this bold seven point initiative as families plan for the transitional year ahead and reintegrate to fully in-person learning. By investing in our schools, we are investing in a more just and fair recovery for our city.”

“The COVID-19 pandemic deeply impacted students in underserved communities, including my own in the Bronx, causing increased academic and mental health struggles. I thank Mayor de Blasio and Chancellor Porter for their commitment to ensuring that our students receive the resources necessary to get back on track and placed on a path towards academic and career success,” said Assemblymember Kenny Burgos.

“I applaud Mayor de Blasio and Chancellor Porter for focusing on improving student literacy and investing in social emotional supports for students in this post-COVID era.  Reading disabilities go undiagnosed or unaddressed in most communities, but the issue is particularly profound in communities of color.  Every child should be screened for dyslexia and learning disabilities because early identification will allow us to target interventions before kids fall behind to ensure successful educational outcomes and break the school-to-prison pipeline. Literacy is a matter of social justice, and access to digital support devices is also critical to successful learning in a modern era,” said Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon, a former special education teacher who currently holds state bills on dyslexia and learning-related disabilities.

“The Academic Recovery Plan recognizes that our students’ mental health is as important as their physical health; that they need support well outside class hours; that early intervention will make a lifetime of difference; that digital devices have gone from a luxury to a necessity; and that we must provide our special needs students with special resources. I also applaud the critical support this plan gives to multilingual learners, which will help children from immigrant communities succeed in America. After our students endured more than a year of distance learning, today’s plan will put them back on a track for success,” said Assemblymember Jenifer Rajkumar.

“After a difficult year-plus of remote learning, I am grateful that our young scholars will be supported with the social, emotional, and technological resources they need for a safe and productive school year in the fall. The pandemic taught us a lot of lessons, particularly as it relates to the needs of students of color. I appreciate the efforts of the Administration and the Department of Education to collaborate with the Black, Latino and Asian Caucus and educators and parents of color for the past several months to create a more diverse, responsive, and forward-thinking curriculum. These new initiatives will serve to create broader historical awareness of the contributions of people of color and provide for the culturally sensitive instruction we have advocated for over the past several years,” said Council Member I. Daneek Miller, Co-Chair of the Black, Latino, and Asian Caucus.  

“New York City’s students need all the help and investments they can get after the tough year they had learning from home and dealing with the effects of the pandemic,” said Council Member Ben Kallos. “This academic recovery plan which focuses on early literacy and making kids college ready will hopefully be successful at helping students claw back some of the academic losses they faced over the last year. Thank you Mayor de Blasio and Chancellor Porter for this truly impressive investment and plan to help our kids get back to learning.”   

“From technology access to literacy rates, the pandemic laid bare the glaring inequalities in our city’s education system. As we recover, I’ve strongly supported increased investments into our school communities and classrooms. The Academic Recovery Plan is an important step forward, and I commend the Mayor and Schools Chancellor on their work fighting for students, teachers, and families,” said Council Member Keith Powers.

“If we are to build a true success path for children’s future, we need to ensure that as a City we are putting in resources that reflect the diversity and needs of our communities––from tackling the digital divide to investing in mental health, and more. This academic recovery plan is a step towards educational equity so that every child, no matter their background or circumstances, has the opportunity to truly thrive,” said Council Member Francisco Moya.

“I have always said that education is the most important tool we can provide for our children to succeed, and I am grateful to Mayor de Blasio and Chancellor Porter for their universal academic recovery plan. I am confident that this investment in our city’s learning infrastructure will help our young people pursue their educational and career goals while receiving the extra support they need to excel. It is important that we continue to empower our young people with essential learning resources and opportunities that provide education equity to underserved students, and I am a strong supporter of initiatives that will achieve this noble goal,” said Council Member Mathieu Eugene.

“I am pleased to learn of the New York City Department of Education’s proactive Universal Academic Recovery Plan to guide our school communities in the wake of the pandemic. As a former educator, I am especially pleased that this plan strategizes and builds supports to help students both communally and individually. Today, more than ever, an investment in education is of the utmost importance,” stated Council Member Alan Maisel.

“These new financial investments and bolstered curriculum will make a huge difference for New York City students of all ages and backgrounds. I look forward to working with the Mayor’s Office and DOE to ensure these programs are effectively implemented and that we continue to push for additional support in and out of the classroom for our children,” said Council Member Carlina Rivera.

# # #

Walking with Maxine: Noticing and reflecting on a year of change

by Christopher Gross

 

“…treating the world as predefined and given, as simply there, is quite separate and different from applying an initiating, constructing mind or consciousness to the world.”—Maxine Greene

I.

One of the silver linings of the past year has been getting to spend more time with my three-year-old daughter. It’s not always easy, but I love that I’ve been able to see her so closely at this stage in her life, to notice who she is becoming, and to appreciate the spirit of the three-year-old mind. 

We love to read together and the Pete the Cat series is a favorite. She loves one story in particular, called Construction Destruction. It goes like this:

Pete the Cat goes outside for recess and discovers a dilapidated playground. He makes plans to build a new playground, and his friends help. They begin to build. Halfway through they decide to make an even cooler playground. The best playground ever. They get to work. The new playground is amazing and everyone is excited!

Until it collapses and falls.

Everyone is disappointed…..but not Pete! They build a different playground, and this one is full of surprises and new places to explore. Everyone is thrilled. The new playground is the best playground ever. “Sometimes you’ve got to dare to dream big!” says Pete.

My daughter loves this story. She also loves building, tearing down, and building up again. Each new structure is the best ever. But it’s never the last ever. Once it’s up it must come down, and the ensuing tumult is joyful, wild, gleeful. With limbs like Godzilla, bricks careen, playdough smooshes, paper shreds. No metal plaques or marble statues remain here. We’re on to the next plan, and we’ve got to “dare to dream big.” (as Pete would say)

—-

II.

“We also have our social imagination: the capacity to invent visions of what should be and what might be in our deficient society, on the streets where we live, in our schools… That is, we acknowledge the harshness of situations only when we have in mind another state of affairs in which things would be better… And it may be only then that we are moved to choose to repair or to renew.” —Maxine Greene 

I frequently walk through Inwood Park, a thumbnail of land at the northern tip of Manhattan. You hear the traffic but see no people, see no buildings. It feels untouched by the city. Spend enough time here and you’ll find ruins. Abandoned lamp posts from WPA projects line the crumbling pathways. You’ll also find foundations of buildings, shards of pottery, old plumbing, wrought iron fences and stone walls that once belonged to houses and estates—the remnants of a community. There had been small family houses and country estates, a pottery studio, and a large complex that served as an ‘asylum for troubled women’ (a dubious term from the 19th century). And of course, before these buildings stood, the surrounding forest had been home to the Lenape people, land stolen by European colonists.

I often wonder: did the people who lived here ever imagine this space would return to the forest? These walks are a reminder to me that we’re always in flux, an ebb and flow of building up and tearing down. Our cultures and communities are not permanent. I find this fact both terrifying and inspiring—we can only thrive through growth and change. Like Pete the Cat we have to embrace that some things will collapse, but that we can rebuild and make something even better. What we care for may flourish; what we abandon may disappear. Evolution and change, even great change, is not only possible, but inevitable.

Reading Maxine Greene, I am reminded of the ways in which noticing is itself a catalyst for change. From an artistic perspective, we notice what is there—in a painting, in a piece of music, in a poem—and we reflect within ourselves to uncover a deeper truth. The same can be true for how we notice the world. When we engage with the world from an artistic stance we find meaning through careful observation and deep reflection. The past year has compelled me to notice more clearly what is there in the world. To notice more of my own blindspots, to understand my own privileges and prejudices, and to understand more of the hierarchies and systems I participate in and benefit from. As I notice, I evolve. I construct and rebuild, repair and renew.

III. 

“We well know that defining this society in terms of the American Dream or in the light of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness means nothing if the people in this society do not feel called upon to act upon such ideals and so realize them…..   Of course, questions may be raised about the principles we choose to identify as those defining a democratic space. Are they objective? Are they universal? All we can do is articulate as clearly as possible what we believe and what we share….”—Maxine Greene

When I think of the past that surrounds us, I reflect on what our world will look like to the people walking our streets in 50, or 100 years—when my daughter will be old. What in our society will seem primitive? What will seem wise? Which structures will evolve, and which will fade away?

I would have assumed that Greene, a philosopher, would be more reassuring, more confident, in telling me that “yes, there is objective truth, there are universal values and here they are.” Instead her philosophy is more activist, in the sense of compelling one to action. If we must continually create ourselves and the world, then we must “articulate as clearly as possible what we believe.” As we ourselves become the ancestors of the succeeding generations, we engage in this articulation each day, and sometimes in the smallest ways, the briefest interactions: How do I engage with my family? My neighbor? My students? My community?

—-

IV.

“Like community itself, democracy has to always be in the making”—Maxine Greene

March 13. 

It’s a date I always remember. For one, it’s my wife’s birthday. And sometimes it falls on a Friday. But now it marks something else: the day the music, and our world, stopped.

In a way, I was relieved. The 2020 season had been thrilling, full of concerts, teaching, projects out of town, my daughter’s first year of preschool. But I was exhausted ten weeks into the year, and an unexpected pause seemed like it could be a good thing. I’ll get some rest and in a month we’ll be back. Naivety and ignorance were in full effect.

Over a year later, and my pandemic exhaustion intermingles with exuberation. Exuberation for all that has returned and is newly-appreciated: Hugs with friends! Going to a cafe! The wind on one’s face! But exhaustion too because we have all lived through a period of loss and destruction, a stripping away of the normal. Now there’s the pleasure of return, but with the knowledge that much is left undone. 

In spite of these question marks and uncertainty, I am hopeful—in no small part because of the incredible and inspiring work I’ve seen teaching artist friends and colleagues create throughout this past year. There is always the opportunity to create something better, to reconstruct. The pandemic, the fight for racial justice, the election—the past year has been unique in the way it has touched everyone in our world in a visceral and personal way. It makes one notice.  

As teaching artists, we have a unique role in that noticing, helping our students to create themselves and our society. As we work, as we help people reflect and make meaning, we continue to question: 

How do we notice what is present in our society, and how do I reflect on my own place in that society? 

How do we form communities with each other, in our neighborhoods and in our country? 

How do we want to rebuild and renew?

 

Da Capo Chamber Players

Cellist Christopher Gross’ performances have been praised by The New York Times (“beautifully meshed readings….lustrous tone”) and The Strad Magazine (“…the tone of Gross’ cello enveloped the crowd [as he] showed energy and intonational accuracy, even when racing around the fingerboard”). He is a founding member of the Talea Ensemble, a member of the Da Capo Chamber Players, and has appeared at venues and festivals throughout the US and Europe including Weill Recital Hall, Alice Tully Hall, Disney Hall, Darmstadt Festival, Mostly Mozart Festival, Wien Modern, the Composers Conference and many others. He has appeared on recordings on various labels, including Bridge, New Focus, Tzadik, and New World. As an orchestral musician, he has played with the New York Philharmonic and the Riverside Symphony. An active educator, he is a Teaching Artist with the New York Philharmonic, working with students across the five boroughs of New York City, and in workshops with audiences and educators. He has written about his experiences as a teacher for the Suzuki Association of America, Playbill, and the Juilliard Journal, and has given classes and lectures at Harvard University, Peabody Conservatory, Sydney Conservatory, Cleveland Cello Society, Brooklyn College, Walnut Hill School for the Arts, and the Face to Face Conference. He is the creator of Cello Solos Today (www.cellosolostoday.org), which commissions new works for young cellists and creates online educational resources about contemporary music. He received his doctoral degree from Juilliard in New York and teaches at Lehigh University, where he was the university’s Horger Artist-in-Residence in 2016-17.

With Major Support from the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs, the Second Cycle of NYCAIER’s Arts Educator Emergency Relief Fund Provides Unrestricted Grants to 340 Arts Education Professionals Impacted by COVID-19

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 24, 2021

CONTACT: Kimberly Olsen, kolsen@nycaieroundtable.org

NEW YORK, NY — The NYC Arts in Education Roundtable recently awarded 340 arts education professionals financially hard-hit by Covid-19 with one-time, unrestricted grants of $1,000 from the Arts Educator Emergency Relief Fund. This second cycle of relief funding was made possible with public funds from the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs and additional support from The Milton and Sally Avery Arts Foundation

“Teaching Artists are highly specialized workers, often working at the heart of schools and communities throughout the five boroughs”, says Kimberly Olsen, Executive Director of the NYC Arts in Education Roundtable. “We believe it is imperative that NYC continue to prioritize and invest in Teaching Artists who are still facing disproportionate financial impact due to the pandemic. We are so grateful for the support of the Department of Cultural Affairs and the Milton and Sally Avery Arts Foundation to provide emergency relief to arts & cultural workers at this critical time.”

Major funding for this round of relief funding comes from the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs, which conducted a survey in spring 2020 of the impact of COVID-19 on the city’s cultural community and found that arts educators were particularly hard hit by the pandemic. As a result, the DCLA partnered with NYCAIER to invest in another round of relief grants as part of its broader efforts to support the cultural sector amid the unprecedented damage caused by the pandemic

“Arts educators are essential for a healthy cultural community that connects with youth and people of all ages,” said Cultural Affairs Commissioner Gonzalo Casals. “As cultural workers, they were also particularly vulnerable to the pandemic, as we saw them laid off and furloughed at incredibly high rates. We were proud to build on the work of the NYC Arts in Education Roundtable by investing in this relief fund, which has provided support to hundreds of arts educators across the city, showing them we value their work and helping them to face this unprecedented challenge.”  

The application for the Relief Fund included a survey to help NYCAIER and other stakeholders better understand the impact of the pandemic on the city’s arts educators. The numbers reported by grantees  is staggering.  96.2% of grantees reported that their income was under $30,000 in 2020; 82.6% were furloughed or laid-off; and more than half of grantees reported losing 71% or more of their income. Of those awarded emergency relief funding, 78.2% identified as a teaching artist and 19.7% identified as both a teaching artist and arts administrator. More than 70% of grantees identified as BIPOC with $102,000 going to Black practitioners as part of NYCAIER’s ongoing efforts to dismantle systems of white supremacy in NYC schools, organizations, and communities.

Originally launched with the generous support of the New York Community Trust, the NYC COVID-19 Response and Impact Fund in the New York Community Trust, and the Booth Ferris Foundation, both cycles received a combined 1,466 individual applications. 786 arts educators applied for the first cycle in June 2020 and 680 applied for the second cycle in April 2021. 

Grantees have shared how the Arts Educator Emergency Relief Fund has allowed for them to secure some of their basic necessities of life, from paying their rent to putting food on the table for their families. “The award comes at a time when the loss of work in education, with New York City’s bright and inspiring schoolchildren, couldn’t be felt more – both financially and psychologically,” says teaching artist Misha McGlown. “I am grateful to live and work in a city where my work as an Arts Educator is valued, enhanced, and supported by an organization such as the NYC Arts in Education Roundtable.” 

Teaching Artist Toni Blackman is one of too many performers whose ability to earn a living has been devastated by Covid-19. “The NYC Arts in Education grant comes at a crucial time. Normally, I’d be touring — performing and teaching but the pandemic grounded so much of the work. As a longtime teaching artist I do not take it for granted. It’s incredible to witness how many teaching artists are being impacted by this grant.”

Research and practice shows that an arts-rich education from pre-K through 12th grade can lead to increased academic and social-emotional skill development as well as higher attendance and graduation rates. Arts education provides critical opportunities to actively engage students needing specialized curriculumspecifically students with disabilities and multilingual learners who have lost instructional time and access to mandated services. 

The impact of arts in our schools is also articulated in the 2021 NYSED Summer School Handbook, which encourages districts and schools to design programs with an emphasis on the arts in both enrichment and instructional programming. Specific guidance for the 2021-2022 school year is still pending.

“As this cultural workforce struggles with job security in an already under-resourced ecosystem, we need to support these practitioners’ survival in our city,” says Olsen. “Ultimately, championing arts educators in the recovery process means a commitment to advancing equity in our classrooms, investing in arts workers, strengthening community partnerships, and supporting the social emotional wellbeing of our students.”

 

About the NYC Arts in Education Roundtable

The New York City Arts in Education Roundtable improves, advances, and advocates for arts education in New York City. NYCAIER is a community of cultural organizations and educators that shares resources, provides professional development, and advocates for the needs of our constituents and the communities they serve. Founded in 1992, NYCAIER builds our efforts around the value that arts education is a right for all NYC students. NYCAIER produces a major annual arts in education conference, Face to Face; monthly professional development programs; in addition to ongoing advocacy and communications efforts for cultural organizations and teaching artists in every discipline. For more information please visit: www.nycaieroundtable.org.

 

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Arts Partnership Grants for the 2020-21 School Year

Office of Arts & Special Projects

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: January 22, 2021
CONTACT: Audrey Cox, ACox16@schools.nyc.gov

The Office of Arts and Special Projects is pleased to announce recipients of Arts Partnership Grants: Arts for English Language Learners and Students with Disabilities and Arts and Family Engagement Grants for the 2020-2021 school year.

For further information, please reference School Allocation Memorandum (SAM) #36, Arts Funding Initiatives. Details can be found under Arts Partnership Grants and Arts+ Family Engagement Grants. A list of approved schools and arts partner organizations for Arts for English Language Learners and Students with Disabilities Grants can be found in Table 5. Table 6 lists approved schools and arts partnerorganizations for Arts and Family Engagement Grants.

Please contact Audrey Cox, Director of Arts Partnerships at the Office of Arts and Special Projects at ACox16@schools.nyc.gov, for more information.

DCLA Awards the Roundtable Additional Funding for the Arts Educator Emergency Relief Fund

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 17, 2020
CONTACT: Kimberly Olsen, kolsen@nycaieroundtable.org

 

NEW YORK, NY — The NYC Department of Cultural Affairs (DCLA) recently committed $750,000 for arts education organizations and to support the Arts Educator Emergency Relief Fund. DCLA’s COVID-19 impact survey found that the greatest loss of artistic employment comes from arts education organizations. This funding will support 25 organizations providing arts education programming across the city, as well as support the continuation of the NYC Arts in Education Roundtable’s Arts Educator Emergency Relief Fund.  

In Fall 2020, the NYC Arts in Education Roundtable’s Arts Educator Emergency Relief Fund awarded 337 arts educators with its last round of funding. The fund awarded one-time, unrestricted grants up to $1,000 to teaching artists and arts education administrators who were facing serious financial hardship due to the COVID-19 crisis. This new infusion of funding from DCLA will ensure that arts-in-education professionals have access to additional financial support during this time.

We acknowledge that our great city is in crisis, but we at the Roundtable believe that the pathway forward includes investing in arts education as part of the city’s recovery,” says Kimberly Olsen, Executive Director of the New York City Arts in Education Roundtable. “The cuts to arts education programs have not only stripped away much-needed resources from young New Yorkers, but jeopardized the livelihood of thousands of artists and cultural workers. We are grateful for support from DCLA to engage in another round of relief funding to support these highly specialized workers.”

The Arts Educator Emergency Relief Fund was originally made possible by the generous support of the New York Community Trust, including funding from the NYC COVID-19 Response and Impact Fund in the New York Community Trust, and the Booth Ferris Foundation. Both teaching artists and arts education administrators will be eligible to apply with an application opening in the new year. Additional details will be announced January 2021. 

 

About the NYC Arts in Education Roundtable
The New York City Arts in Education Roundtable improves, advances, and advocates for arts education in New York City. NYCAIER is a community of cultural organizations and educators that shares resources, provides professional development, and advocates for the needs of our constituents and the communities they serve. Founded in 1992, NYCAIER builds our efforts around the value that arts education is a right for all NYC students. NYCAIER produces a major annual arts in education conference, Face to Face; monthly professional development programs;  in addition to ongoing advocacy and communications efforts for cultural organizations and teaching artists in every discipline. For more information please visit: www.nycaieroundtable.org.

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Request For Proposals: Developers for the Roundtable’s New Website

The New York City Arts in Education Roundtable is seeking design and development services for a new website for our organization.

The New York City Arts in Education Roundtable is a service organization and a community of arts education practitioners sharing information, providing professional development, and communicating with the public to promote our work in schools and beyond.

Please see the attached Request for Proposal for more information about the Roundtable as well as our website objectives, timeline, and requirements. We kindly request you provide the following information in your proposal:
  • Overview of your company

  • Overview of how you will meet our objectives

  • Explanation of your proposed platform/CMS

  • Outline of your website design & development strategy

  • Proposed website timeline from kickoff to launch

  • Details about your team

  • Recent design & development examples

  • References

  • Any key differentiators about you?

  • Pricing with optional elements line-itemed

  • Terms & conditions

The deadline for receipt of your proposal submission is Tuesday, January 19, 2021. No proposals received after that date will be considered. All proposal submissions will be responded to once a decision has been made. If you have questions concerning this RFP, please contact Executive Director Kimberly Olsen at kolsen@nycaieroundtable.org. We appreciate your consideration of our proposal.

Please address your proposal to: 

Kimberly Olsen
Executive Director
NYC Arts in Education Roundtable
Times Square Station
PO Box 2094
New York, NY 10108

and submit electronically to kolsen@nycaieroundtable.org.

The Roundtable on WNYC Radio: The Impact of Covid on NYC Schools Arts Education Programs

Roundtable Executive Director Kimberly Olsen and members including teaching artist Marissa Ontiveros and Michelle Kotler of Community Word Project were recently featured on WNYC Radio. The interview focused on the impact of COVID-19 on arts education programs in NYC public schools. Almost 80% of teaching artists were furloughed or laid off due to the impact of COVID-19, extremely limiting access to arts education for our city’s youth. The interview shares more insight into how the lives of students and teaching artists have been affected by the pandemic and the ways that teaching artists have been able to cope during these times. Listen to the interview here (5 Minutes):

https://www.wnyc.org/story/other-covid-symptom-struggling-arts-programs-public-schools/

The Altman Foundation Awards the Roundtable a Grant to Develop a New, More Impactful Website

Altman Foundation logo

NEW YORK, NY –The Altman Foundation recently awarded the New York City Arts in Education Roundtable a capacity-building grant for the development of a new website. Given the impact of COVID-19 on the field of arts education, this grant will help the Roundtable in our efforts to serve arts educators with more expansive and effective digital tools and resources. In addition to designing a website that is more responsive and accessible to everyone, our goal is to ensure that the site is more dynamic, streamlined, and multimedia-friendly.

“The Roundtable prides itself as the main information-hub for NYC’s arts in education community. With this generous gift from the Altman Foundation, we will be able to better serve the field and our membership with a new, more accessible website that highlights our rich professional learning resources including workshop videos, community blog posts, a robust jobs board, and upcoming opportunities,” says Kimberly Olsen, Executive Director of the New York City Arts in Education Roundtable. 

Over the next several weeks, the Roundtable staff will be working with our member-led Advocacy, Communications, and Membership Committees to identify areas for improvement in the website user experience. We will also be conducting surveys to solicit feedback on the new website’s design direction in our efforts to address the needs of our members as comprehensively as possible. 

About the NYC Arts in Education Roundtable

The New York City Arts in Education Roundtable improves, advances, and advocates for arts education in New York City. NYCAIER is a community of cultural organizations and educators that shares resources, provides professional development, and advocates for the needs of our constituents and the communities they serve. Founded in 1992, NYCAIER builds our efforts around the value that arts education is a right for all NYC students. NYCAIER produces a major annual arts in education conference, Face to Face; monthly professional development programs;  in addition to ongoing advocacy and communications efforts for cultural organizations and teaching artists in every discipline.

For more information please visit: www.nycaieroundtable.org.

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New York City Arts in Education Roundtable Awards Over 330 Grants from the Arts Educator Emergency Relief Fund

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: October 6, 2020
CONTACT: Kimberly Olsen, kolsen@nycaieroundtable.org 

Published on October 6, 2020 

NEW YORK, NY – The New York City Arts in Education Roundtable (NYCAIER) recently awarded grants to 337 arts educators as part of the Arts Educator Emergency Relief Fund. Made possible with generous contributions from the New York Community Trust and Booth Ferris Foundation, this fund provides unrestricted grants up to $1,000 to arts education professionals who have been financially hardest hit by the COVID-19 crisis.

“As the convening body for NYC’s arts in education community, the Roundtable is grateful for the opportunity to support hundreds of teaching artists and cultural workers through our Arts Educator Emergency Relief Fund,” says Kimberly Olsen, Executive Director of the New York City Arts in Education Roundtable. “However, in this critical moment, we need to keep prioritizing and investing in these essential members of our schools and communities, who are facing disproportional financial impact from the economic downturn. Otherwise, we risk losing vital voices in our schools and communities.” 

NYCAIER received close to 800 applications to the Relief Fund and worked in partnership with 11 practitioners in the field to review applications and select the final grantees. A total of $333,500 was awarded to 337 arts education professionals, 80% of whom identified as Teaching Artists. In addition, 89% of the awardees reported having been furloughed or laid off and 93% estimated their 2020 income to be under $30,000. Over a third of the total granted was to Black arts education professionals as part of NYCAIER’s ongoing efforts to dismantle systems of white supremacy in NYC schools, organizations, and communities. 

“I am humbled and extremely grateful for this generous gift,” said arts educator Cáitlín Burke. “The COVID crisis has greatly impacted my life, I have lost work and loved ones, and as a result, have had unplanned expenses arise. This award is going to greatly help me in my current situation, and I am so grateful to NYC Arts in Education for providing this help to me and other NYC educators.”

Arts educator Kimberlee Walker shared how the Arts Educator Emergency Relief Fund grant helped her secure some very immediate needs. “Like so many people, unemployment insurance had kept me afloat since I was laid off and all of my acting gigs were cancelled,” said Kimberlee. “Before getting the award notification email, I literally did not know how I would pay rent going into October. Now, that is one less thing to worry about.” 

About the NYC Arts in Education Roundtable

The New York City Arts in Education Roundtable improves, advances, and advocates for arts education in New York City. NYCAIER is a community of cultural organizations and educators that shares resources, provides professional development, and advocates for the needs of our constituents and the communities they serve. Founded in 1992, NYCAIER builds our efforts around the value that arts education is a right for all NYC students. NYCAIER produces a major annual arts in education conference, Face to Face; monthly professional development programs;  in addition to ongoing advocacy and communications efforts for cultural organizations and teaching artists in every discipline.

For more information please visit: www.nycaieroundtable.org.

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