(Public News Service) SEATTLE - This month marks the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech, and in the state of Washington, that dream has new meaning for young people of all races, who attend "Freedom School." It's a nine-day course for youth (ages 15 to 21) that covers the history of racism and poverty, and focuses on the modern-day challenge of how to end them.
A summer Freedom School just wrapped up in Seattle, and 20-year-old Otieno Terry was part of it. He said it was an eye-opener for some participants to hear about what he and other young people of color go through in daily life because of their race.
"I feel like it really does come down to people connecting on a human level," Terry said. "It can be that simple, but we have to take the steps to get there. And part of that is just being accountable for the things that we can do as individuals, to become more aware of each other."
The Freedom School attendees make recommendations to policymakers and educators at the end of the course. Their latest list includes community centers run at least in part by the young people who use them, more helpful alternatives to school detention, and more dialogue between kids and police officers.
In addition to the nine-day course, there's also a three-day course. Most Freedom Schools are held in Seattle, although director Dustin Washington said they've been asked to bring the course to other areas and to the state's youth detention centers. He pointed out that every community struggles with these issues.
"We know that there's racial disparities across the state in every community, in terms of educational success, in terms of incarceration, unemployment, access to living-wage jobs," he said. "You know, undoing racism is also about liberating people from poverty and from other forms of oppression as well."
Freedom School is sponsored by the American Friends Service Committee and the People's Institute Northwest. The next session is in December, over winter break during the school year.