Reclaiming Hidden Histories: A Restorative Project
Defiantly documenting legacies and histories that will never be forgotten!
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Reclaiming Hidden Histories: A Restorative Project
10 months ago I took a sabbatical. I sat with myself, alone, dwelling in the silence of my Bedstuy apartment. It is in that wilderness that we have to ask ourselves, “What is my work, really?”. The answers that were birthed out of that still silence have been overflowing! I dreamed of research projects, tech projects, new curricula, books, and documentaries that have quite literally changed my life! Because of this I have come to understand that my identity as an educator and entrepreneur needs to be more expansive. Although my dissertation hinted at this, I now know that I am an education entrepreneur who is also a documentarian and historian.
The work of documenting and archiving local education histories has become the cornerstone of my life's work. Now that I have this clarity I am humbly and boldly asking that you support the emerging historian and documentarian projects that are unfolding for me!
As someone who has chosen to be an independent scholar and whose work is rooted in working closely with local communities my work will be funded by grants, fellowships, and community donations from generous folks like you! I am eternally grateful! Below is a brief overview of two projects that I will begin next month and the equipment needed. Each of these projects has endless possibilities. Whether these projects turn into books, tv shows, documentaries, or articles in the New York Times I am grateful that you’re choosing to invest in me!
Why is this important to all of us?
America has a problem—deliberate selective memory. Historically, marginalized communities in this country have had their histories rewritten and/or destroyed to tell a narrative that denies the truth of America's oppressive roots. We're bearing witness to the outright erasure of certain histories in states like Florida and Texas. Carter G. Woodson emphasizes the necessity of record keeping and documentation in the preservation of histories who are denied the fullness of their truth. He understood that without a record we would lose our ability to have a rich understanding and perspective of ourselves, our communities, and our ancestors. Record keeping, archiving, and documentation are also necessary for all of us given the historicalhurdles that we experience while attempting to preserve our written and oral histories. Institutions such as theSchomburg Center for Research In Black Culture,El Museo del Barrio, The National Women's History Museum, Harvey Gantt Center for African American Arts and Culture,Smithsonian African American Museum, and other museums and research centers have worked to preserve those histories.
It is through this preservation that all of us can develop new pathways of understanding what/who has gone before us while being inspired to push forward into creating new histories and legacies for ourselves!
I am following the work of dynamic scholars such as Dr. Vanessa Siddle Walker and Dr. James Anderson who, if it had not been for their work, histories of Black education and educators would be forgotten. Dr. Siddle Walker’s book, The Lost Education of Horace Tate, chronicles the impact of Dr. Horace Edward Tate, a Black teacher, principal, and senator. She describes how writing this book is where she “discovered a hidden world of courageous black educational leaders” (p. 3). Dr. Anderson’s book, The Education of Blacks In The South, became an anchor for my dissertation as it brought forth a detailed history of how Black education was shaped following the end of slavery. These books and aforementioned institutions are actively excavating and preserving the names and legacies of people forgotten. I desire to do the same!
Project 1: Illuminating the Legacies of Black Teacher Assistants in the South
My mother, Estelle Davis Howell, has been a teacher assistant (TA) since I was in 3rd grade. 2025 will mark her 30th year in that same elementary school. All too often TA's are discarded as people who hold very little knowledge about actual teaching. They are positioned as mere place holders who deal with behavior or clerical tasks. I disagree. My mother, and countless other teacher assistants around the country, have developed decades of teacher assistant methodology, especially those who have remained in schools for an extended time. It is essential that we continue to find new inroads to transform the field of education and studying TA’s and their work is a beautiful opportunity! I firmly believe it is my responsibility to bring my mother and the legacies of other TA's to the forefront of conversations about education reparations and reform.
To commemorate her legacy and practices as a teacher assistant, I am writing a book manuscript documenting both her biography, the history of Black teacher assistants in the South, and teacher assistant practices. I’ll be interviewing her and a set group of Black teacher assistants who have dedicated 20+ years in education to uplift their legacies as pillars in our communities. My hope is that this project continues to advocate for teacher assistants, their knowledge, skills, and the important role they play in education. I envision this will help us clarify the significance of TA's and will lead to education institutions, organizations, and universities to reconsider how we view, respect, learn from, and educate TA's as full educators. This project requires photograph and video documentation along with an extensive amount of reading. Your support will allow me to purchase both equipment (see below) and books needed to begin!
Project 2: Documenting Local Charlotte Legacies In Alternative Education Spaces
I believe that transformation in schools does not have to come from traditional school spaces. Alternative spaces and education organizations have been helping transform school districts especially in marginalized communities. We can trace the historical roots of organizations such as the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), a civil rights activist group, who created a series of 41 Freedom Schools in 1964 to provide an education for Black children. There is also the history of churches and after-school programs that have housed powerful spaces of learning. However, the stories of these organizations and documentation of "how" they archived this work is not always abundantly visible. I am currently working with a church and other local education organizations in Charlotte, NC to document how they have helped impact Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools (CMS) for the past decade. My goal is to turn this particular project into an exhibition here in Charlotte, NC which will serve as an inspirational portal for other organizations that would like to support their local schools. The exhibit will eventually be transformed into a digital archival library which will include photos, videos, memos, and archival documents in an effort to continue documenting Charlotte, NC education transformation in alternative spaces!
Camera equipment/accessories to be purchased through this crowdfund:
I am grateful for all of your love and support in whatever way you deem appropriate. Whether you're donating, sharing on your social media, or word of mouth I know that I am always loved and supported by community. Thank you for nurturing and investing in my newest projects! I am eager to begin working and bringing these projects (and many others) to life!
The Campaign FAQs
When does your project start?
I've already started projects 1! I began interviewing my mother last week and ordering books. Project 2 begins next week.
How can we continue to engage and be engaged by your work?
I am in the process of generating a newsletter that will be send bi-monthly to share my early findings. I am also considering a youtube channel to show early video documentation of my work. I will also begin posting more frequently on my business IG page (@thethoughtpartner).
Where do you envision your projects going from here?
I have BIG dreams that each of these projects will become books and documentaries. I imagine that my work will unearth new conceptions in education that can be transformational on the local and (inter)national level.
What else can I do to support beyond money?
There are so many ways to support me beyond money. Sharing this project with others is powerful beyond measure! Please speak my name and vision as often as possible. If you find that you have used equipment that you'd like to gift or offer at a lower price I would be grateful!