June 26, 2018 Madeline Coffey

Melissa Harris-Perry brings annual Freedom School to Winston-Salem

Today the Anna Julia Cooper Center kicked off its annual Children’s Defense Fund Freedom Schools.  Fifty children in grades 3-5 will spend the next six weeks of their summer as part of this exciting program, offered free of charge to families by the AJC Center Freedom School. 

Perry Political Partnership principal Melissa Harris-Perry with Freedom School students and staff. Photo courtesy of Ann Nguyen. 

Perry Political Partnership principal, Melissa Harris-Perry, is founding director of the Anna Julia Cooper Center. Its mission- to advance justice through intersectional scholarship and engagement – is manifest in the work of Freedom School.

Freedom Schools were started to bridge the gap for students from low income backgrounds who are more likely to lose skills in reading and other subjects over the summer.  This “summer slide,” as it is often called, can cause students to fall three to five years behind in school over time. That is exactly why AJC Center Associate Director and Assistant Professor of Education, Dr. Dani Parker-Moore initiated the program through the Anna Julia Cooper Center in 2017 to serve low income children in our community here in Winston-Salem.  

Freedom School curriculum is culturally specific and locally relevant.  The Anna Julia Cooper Center works to ensure this is true for the students and families participating in the program.  Last summer students heard from Black Lives Matter co-founder Alicia Garza, who read and discussed Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer, Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement by Carole Boston Weatherford. 

Alicia Garza, founder of Black Lives Matter, visits Freedom School students in Winston-Salem, NC in summer 2017. Photo courtesy of Ann Nguyen. 

Last summer student participants demonstrated a five month reading gain after 6 weeks the AJC Center program.  Since its founding in 1995, Freedom Schools have offered summer reading programs to nearly 140,000 students. Dr. Harris-Perry and the Anna Julia Cooper Center look forward broadening their impact this summer and in the coming years through the Anna Julia Cooper Freedom School.