“Getting Free, Imagining Freedom”: Reflections on Free Minds Free People 2019


A month ago, PIE and 482Forward Youth traveled to Minneapolis, MN to present at the 12th semi-annual Free Minds Free People Conference (FMFP). Our director Nate Mullen joined Emily Gonzales, Valeria Rios-Hernandez and Matt Homrich Knieling to share learnings and practices of organizing and humanizing schooling to an audience as hungry for conversation and transformation in education as we are. But what we experienced went beyond the content of our workshop. We heard from dynamic panelists, including Mariame Kaba and David Stovall who spoke about youth incarceration and the school-prison nexus. We saw beautiful performance art from the creators and members of Indigenous Roots. We learned about citizenship and immigration at school in a state named for its native people and a city known for its immigrant population. And we explored the Twin Cities, where local vendors fed us and residents welcomed us and shared their history and traditions. 

In the weeks after FMFP, we spoke to 482Forward Youth about their experiences in the Twin Cities and attending the conference. They traveled together with young people from Detroit Area Youth Uniting Michigan (DAYUM), an activist organization run by high school students. We asked them about their travels, connections, learnings and inspirations. 

Very surprising to see not only people that react surprised to things we experience, but also people that relate to us. Knowing that people thousands of miles away have the same experiences as us just makes me feel even more empowered to make a change.
— Valeria Rios-Hernandez, 482Forward Youth member

“The downtown area was pretty similar to ours,” said Valeria Rios-Hernandez, 482Forward Youth member and college freshman. “I do feel like I didn’t get to get the full Minneapolis experience because we were downtown where there was so much gentrification. But… there was a lot of people of color there so I did feel at home.” 

Speaking of people of color, Rios-Hernandez and her fellow 482Forward Youth member Emily Gonzales, a high school sophomore from Detroit, spoke frequently about the immigrants and indigenous people in Minneapolis and at the conference. If FMFP’s goal with its location and programming was to inspire more work around race equity and inclusion, they succeeded with these young people.  Their experiences were so profound that they were excited to bring their learnings back to Detroit. 

“Since I’m joining MI Students Dream, we are planning to show students how to get a higher education being undocumented in Detroit,” said Gonzales. She explained this while reflecting on the “Disrupting the School-to-Deportation Pipeline” workshop put on by Teach Dream and New York State Youth Leadership Council (NYSYLC). “If they’re doing this in another city, it’s possible for us to do it in Detroit. They knew what they were talking about and they made it very sweet and to the point.”These astute observations and conclusions didn’t stop with the workshop. Gonzales also talked about FMFP’s uplifting of indigenous communities and how it could shape her work with 482Forward’s semi annual conference planning. 

“I like how they started off the first day with the native dances and everything. I felt like that was very powerful because it was a very big symbol of respect. I feel like at our [482Forward] conferences we can start off doing that… it really stepped us out on the right foot for the whole conference.”


Gonzales reflected on just two of over 100 convenings, panels, tours and gatherings during this year’s FMFP programming. It was impossible to make it to everything, and also impossible nonetheless to miss the gems each speaker, presenter and facilitator had in store. 

“When black men are ready to embrace black trans women, then we can have a conversation about liberation.” This was one of the many jewels author and researcher Bettina L. Love dropped during the opening plenary. Rios-Hernandez spoke about the impact Love’s words had on her.

“The way that she spoke really impacted me because she made people feel… like they didn’t have to be ashamed of their own experiences, because she wasn’t ashamed when speaking of them. So I think when I want to talk about my own experiences, I feel like I want to make people feel comfortable… because many of us have gone through it.”

Rios-Hernandez did speak about her experiences, along with PIE Director Nate Mullen;  educator, organizer and writer, Matthew Homrich-Knieling and Emily Gonzales during our workshop, “Organizing to Humanize Schooling in Detroit.” 

The workshop opened with a centering activity where presenters read “Wild Geese” by Mary Oliver to bring participants’ attention into the room. After an overview of workshop presenters and their work in Detroit, we moved into a space of inquiry, asking questions like “Does school make room for our humanity?” A group discussion led to Mullen’s introduction of his own schooling experience in Detroit. From there, we hosted a dynamic panel of people from various vantage points of education: High school student Tay, educator Marisol Teachworth and Homrich-Knieling talked about their passions, hopes and work in education and answered questions from attendees. These attendees, by the way, were all from Detroit! Homrich-Knieling reflected on the workshop:

“So basically, a bunch of folx from Detroit went to Minneapolis and we all ended up in the same room to talk educational justice and liberation, which was beautiful and hilarious. It felt so good to be in community with everyone, to learn about transformative work happening across the city, and to share our experiences working to humanize schooling in Detroit… Even though so much is not working in our schools, there are so many communities… in Detroit creating opportunities for young folx to learn, to create, to collaborate with adults meaningfully, to fight for justice & freedom.”

In fact, “Getting Free, Imagining Freedom” was the overall theme of the conference. Seems like we hit the mark. 

Check out some views of the conference from our vantage point:

Apply by July 16 for the 2019 Rida Institute!


People in Education is excited to announce that the application for the 2019-2020 Rida Institute is now open!

The Rida Institute is a year-long training that prepares educators to facilitate humanizing classrooms.  For PIE, this means classrooms that respect the full humanity of both students and teachers, and that nurture authentic youth voice and leadership.

summer intensive july 30 - august 1

The Institute kicks off with a three-day summer retreat where compassionate and engaged educators gather in a beautiful Detroit space to connect, reflect and create. Participants are invited to return to their purpose for becoming educators and celebrate each other for their work and passion. We step outside to move around and break the ice and then step inside build lasting relationships one-on-one and as a whole. We hear from a dynamic line-up of guest presenters: young people, social justice thought leaders and educators past and present.

“The Rida summer institute was truly inspiring, empowering, and rejuvenating.  Even though I have done this institute for several years now, each experience is different, and each helps me to grow and recenter my purpose as an educator.”
— 2018 Rida Participant

Check out our recap of the 2018 Rida Summer Intensive.

school year meet-ups

The summer retreat -- July 30 to August 1 -- is a launch pad for the continued support and development participants nurture with one another throughout the school year. This takes the form of monthly meet-ups and networking events such as book clubs, local and national conferences and lesson planning parties.

We believe that in order to transform our educational system, educators must begin by transforming their own practices and design classrooms that are relevant to their lives and the lives of their students. Rida is PIE’s opportunity to share our tools and best practices, and it’s also a place to gather and build a community of educators interested in socially just education.

“It was pure joy to be in a room with a group of folks who simply understood.”
— Rida 2018 Participant
Rida 2018 Cohort Meet-up

Rida 2018 Cohort Meet-up

This could be you, starting this summer! Apply for the 2018 Rida Institute. The deadline is July 16.


The cost for the year-long Institute for individuals is a sliding scale, from $50 to $500. We do not want cost to be an obstacle for anyone; we are happy to work with you to make the Institute affordable. The cost to participate as a representative of an institution is $500. Please indicate on the application which amount you decide upon.

Questions? Email nate@alliedmedia.org.

Save the Date: Rida Institute 2019!

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“Rejuvenating, grounding and powerful.  Connected me to a very supportive network that aligns with my educational goals.” - Rida 2018 Alum

Heads up! The Rida Institute summer intensive is coming up July 30 - August 1, 2019 in Detroit.   The Institute itself is a year long, and the summer intensive is at once a retreat and kick-off toward a year of monthly meet-ups where Rida teachers connect, support and learn from one another. Here is a rundown of what we have planned so far:

Rida Institute Summer Intensive

This three-day intensive will introduce teachers to the Rida Framework, one of PIE’s tools for humanizing schooling. This year we’ll host a series of talks and conversations by dynamic educators (to be named soon!) and we’ll focus on building relationships in the classroom as a launch pad for relevant and resonant classroom content.

Monthly Meetups

Monthly throughout the school year, Rida participants will come together to “tune up” their classroom plans and practices. These meetups will take the form of book clubs, lesson planning parties and more to troubleshoot classroom challenges and share successes.

Classroom Visits and Interviews

Every classroom will be observed at least once throughout the school year by PIE staff. We will also conduct interviews with students to assess their perceptions of the classroom. Teachers will reflect on these evaluations and observations during one-on-one meetings to understand what’s working and not working in their classrooms, and adjust their practices accordingly.

More info is coming soon, and we'll be sure to keep you updated. Meanwhile, check out our recap from last year’s summer intensive.

Rida 2018 Summer Intensive

Rida 2018 Summer Intensive

A Note on PIE Leadership

A week ago, we announced that PIE is seeking a Director.

We’re excited about new developments in leadership here at PIE and after thinking over the past few days, we want to share the context for this important transition. Here’s a note from our current director, Nate Mullen:

Nate Mullen, photo by  Julianne Lindsey

Nate Mullen, photo by Julianne Lindsey

Hello Loves!

As you may have gathered, I am planning to transition out of my role as director. I’m hoping that by August 2019 I can fully leave this role to a new leader who is just as passionate about advancing our work.

I've been working towards this goal for the past two years. In that process we've made some big changes at PIE to make it stronger and become a great place to start a new chapter. I believe PIE is now at that place.

We have an amazing group of people supporting this work -- our team, our advisory board and all of you! PIE has worked hard to ensure we can sustain our projects, and we have a new suite of programing that will allow the work to of humanizing schooling to continue.

As for me, I am hoping to return to what I love: making art and facilitating space. I am stepping down, not stepping away; my intention is to keep supporting PIE, just not as the director. I hope to continue leading trainings, making art, maybe transition to the Advisory Board and/or help in other capacities.

I can’t begin to tell you how much this work means to me. I have never given more than I have given to our vision, mission and goals at PIE. In many ways, it has been a dream come true. And now it’s time we dream anew.

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Thanks and Love,


PS. If you know who our next director is please forward them the call or let us know and we'll reach out!

You might also want to check out.

People In Education is seeking a Director!


People in Education is hiring a new Director to lead our work toward humanizing schooling.  

Who we’re looking for

PIE's ideal Director is committed to transforming the practice of schooling. Grounded in strategic thinking and able to manage programs, they are a proven leader who can coach and facilitate teams to actualize programmatic visions. Finally, they are able to ensure that an organization has the resources it needs to operate healthily and sustainably.

The ideal candidate is a motivator, thrives in a collaborative environment with a broad range of partners and yet is self directed.

Interest and experience in art, music, design and/or visual culture is a plus.


  • Two to three years of management experience

  • Background in facilitation

  • Background in education, youth development and/or arts education

  • Excellent written communications skills

  • An enthusiasm for People In Education and education in general

  • Confident verbal communication – an ability to speak on behalf of, and help develop PIE’s voice

  • Well organized with the ability to meet deadlines

  • Ability to work collaboratively and strategically

  • Ability to evaluate, learn from successes and missteps, and adapt

  • Ability to give clear direction and take feedback

About the position

The Director will manage PIE’s full time staff while supporting our network of artists, interns and educators to explore ideas and practices around humanizing schooling.


  1. Organizational Strategy PIE's Director oversees all of our program areas and cultivates plans to sustainably move the work forward. This includes:

    1. Internal Strategy- oversee PIE’s teams and programs to ensure alignment towards PIE’s mission and vision.

    2. Communications strategy- make PIE’s work visible, accessible and compelling.

    3. Fundraising Strategy- lead efforts that ensure the long-term health and sustainability of PIE.

  2. Team Management Maintain a healthy, productive work culture within the organization.

    1. Manage and coach PIE’s staff (i.e. weekly meetings, 1 on 1 meetings, etc.).

    2. Further develop strong systems for human resources.  

    3. Further develop strong systems for financial management.

    4. Lead and develop PIE’s Advisory Board.

    5. Host and manage check ins with AMP staff regarding fiscal sponsorship.

  3. Holistic System Change Develop a strategy to further PIE’s mission.

    1. Stay abreast of trends and developments in education justice locally and nationally.

    2. Foster strong relationships with other local organizations working to make education systems more accountable, just and humanizing.

    3. Research and disseminate to key stakeholders best practices within the fields of arts and education.

This position is full time and based in Detroit, Michigan.


Salary range: $50,000 - $58,000 (commensurate with skills and experience).

Competitive benefits package, including comprehensive health insurance, to be detailed during selection process.

How to apply

The deadline to apply is May 28 at midnight EST. The target start date for the PIE Director is July 8, 2019.

To apply, please send the following to work@alliedmedia.org with your name and “PIE DIRECTOR” in the subject line by May 28 at midnight EST:

  • Cover letter telling us about your commitment to leadership and education

  • Résumé

  • Three professional references including names, emails and telephone numbers.

Download a PDF of the Call for PIE Director here.

We strongly encourage people of color, women, LGBTQ people and people with disabilities to apply.

Allied Media Projects is an Equal Opportunity Employer and does not discriminate on the basis of race, creed, color, gender, gender identity, gender expression, age, ethnicity, national origin, immigration status, sexual orientation, religion, HIV serostatus, disability, height, weight, veteran status or marital status.