Learning Liberation Track

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Creating empowered, humanizing classrooms

How can schools, classrooms, and other spaces of learning become sites for justice and liberation? When and how should we encourage young people to break rules? When and how should teachers make trouble? We will share practices, principles, and resources that empower young people and educators to teach to and for their human being.

Connections will be made locally and nationally on humanizing and creative ways to educate for liberation. Participants will walk away with spirit and drive to create transformative educational spaces of teaching with a network to lean on for support, resources, and organizing.

Coordinators of this track are Nate Mullen, Thomas Nikundiwe, Ammerah Saidi, and Matt Homrich-Knieling.


Educators - join us in the pressing work of educational justice!

We are seeking proposals for panel discussions, workshops, presentations, and facilitated discussions that explore the ways in which we can teach for justice, liberation, and healing. Whether you’re a teacher, youth organizer, administrator, student, or activist engaged in educational justice, we are looking for presenters to collaboratively engage in this work by sharing your stories, your experiences and your skills, your successes and your challenges. Together, we can transform education to become a space to create and practice freedom!

Specifically, we’re looking for sessions that:

  1. Offer examples of humanizing and liberatory pedagogies and practices:
  • Share ideas, successes & challenges, and lessons from both inside and outside of schools
  • Bring the arts, movement, and media to the work of education for freedom
  • Explore the lessons offered by culturally-sustaining, radical, and public pedagogies

  2. Position students and young people as leaders and activists:

  • Share examples, models, and stories of youth organizing and student-led campaigns
  • Explore activist and community organizing pedagogies

  3. Make space for building a local collective of social justice educators and creating connections with national networks:

  • Share, uplift, and honor the work of Detroit students, educators, parents, and community members
  • Propose a space designed to spark meaningful relationships among different constituents (youth, educators, organizers, media-makers) to further the work of education for freedom
  • Gather an assembly of different constituents interested in a particular enactment of education for freedom (i.e. ethnic studies; social justice art-making; dance as liberation)

We see this track as building on the transformative educational justice work that is already happening inside and outside of classrooms, while also creating space for new possibilities, strategies, and collaborative networks.

If you have questions or want to discuss ideas for a proposal with the coordinating team, please contact us at

Detroit Future Schools is hiring

DFS_hiring2 Detroit Future Schools is seeking experienced, visionary applicants for two roles for the 2014-2015 school year: Program Coordinator and Artist-in-residence of Detroit Future Schools’ In-school Program.

Detroit Future Schools is a digital media arts-integration program committed to humanizing schooling. We partner artists-in-residence with K-12 classrooms in the Metro Detroit area for a full school year, during which time they work collaboratively with teachers to make core content engaging and relevant. They lead students through semester-long media projects that investigate essential questions about their communities and the world. We provide teacher professional development throughout the year to support both the artists-in-residence and the classroom teachers to nurture a humanizing classroom culture.

Detroit Future Schools is a sponsored project of Allied Media Projects.

Read more about the two open positions below. To apply, please send the following to

  • cover letter
  • resume
  • Three work samples (curricula, articles or essays, grant applications or reports, links to videos of workshops you have led, etc.). Work samples that demonstrate your written communication skills are highly encouraged.
  • names, emails, and telephone numbers of three professional references

Applications will be accepted until May 21, 2014. Interviews will take place 
in late May or early June. Our ideal candidate will start on July 7, 2014.

NOTE: These positions are posted pending funding approval. We expect to hear a response to a request for funding of these positions by mid-June.

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.


Title: DFS Program Coordinator

Reports to: Allied Media Projects Executive Director

Based at: Allied Media Projects: 4126 Third St. Detroit, MI 48201

Primary Objective: To lead the continued implementation and development of the Detroit Future Schools program.


    • In partnership with the DFS Lead Artist, advance the long-term vision and strategy of Detroit Future Schools
    • In partnership with the DFS Lead Artist, provide professional development and instructional coaching to DFS teachers and artists to ensure the integration of research-based instructional practices (also known as DFS Root Practices).
    • Maintain an in-depth knowledge of all aspects of DFS programming in order to hold a “balcony” view of trends and patterns across classrooms and course-correct as needed.
    • Organize, design, and facilitate gatherings of staff and participants of the DFS in-school program (approximately five events per year)
    • Oversee all program evaluations, including:
  • Monthly Self-Assessments
  • Quantitative Surveys
  • Student interviews
    • Manage DFS Public Relations, with support from Allied Media Projects staff, including:
  • Publicizing events and opportunities
  • Sharring curricula
  • Conference presentations
  • Blog posts that may include summarizing learnings from the program
  • School presentations
  • Email and social media blasting
    • Manage DFS fundraising efforts, with support from Allied Media Projects staff, including:
  • Grant prospecting
  • Grant writing and reporting
  • Interacting with current and prospective funders
  • Securing contracts with schools
  • Developing a base of recurring donors through the AMP sustainers program
  • Provide general administrative and organizational support as needed


  • The ideal candidate will have:
  • Demonstrated commitment to social justice values.
  • Excellent leadership, strategic thinking and planning skills.
  • High-level proficiency with Google applications (Drive, Calendar, etc.)
  • A breadth of knowledge, including current trends and emerging practices of digital media education, assistive technologies and arts-infused education.
  • A grounding in alternative/community-based educational theories, such as popular education, critical-pedagogy, project-based learning and multiple intelligences.
  • Five years of curriculum-development experience within a community organization or educational institution.
  • Preferred three years experience in program development, implementation and evaluation.
  • Familiarity with state curriculum standards and benchmarks and experience adapting curricula to meet those standards in creative ways.
  • Experience working collaboratively with a diverse staff.
  • Excellent interpersonal, written and communication skills; strong public speaking skills.
  • Excellent self-management and time-management skills
  • Ability/desire to work flexible hours, including occasional evenings and weekends, and willingness to travel occasionally.


  • Part-time and Full-time options available
  • Competitive salary and benefits package


Title: DFS Teaching Artist

Reports to: DFS Lead Artist

Based at: Allied Media Projects: 4126 Third St. Detroit, MI 48201

Primary Objective: To develop and implement DFS media arts-integrated curriculum in K-12 classrooms, in collaboration with classroom teachers and the DFS teaching artist team.


    • Build a strong collaborative partnership with assigned DFS classroom teacher(s)
    • Develop in-depth knowledge of research-based instructional practices (also known as DFS Root Practices) and support partnering teacher(s) to integrate these practices into their classroom culture.
    • Facilitate DFS media-making modules, through which students will:
  • develop skills in digital media production
  • experience all four phases of the media-making process: pre-production, production, post-production, and distribution.
  • investigate essential questions relevant to their lives and their communities
  • increase their mastery of core content
  • develop critical thinking and creative problem-solving skills
    • Complete two DFS media modules with each classroom over the course of the school year.
    • Adhere to DFS documentation and evaluation procedures, which include:
  • Weekly lesson plans
  • Monthly self-assessments
  • Program pre, mid-point, and post evaluations
    • Participate in regular DFS meetings, which include:
  • Bi-weekly staff meetings
  • Quarterly Tune-ups (usually on Sundays)


The ideal candidate will have:

  • Demonstrated commitment to social justice values.
  • Demonstrated commitment to authentic youth leadership
  • Mastery of at least one digital media art form (video production, audio production, graphic design, or web design) and at least one year experience teaching that art form.
  • Two or more years experience working as an educator in K-12 schools or youth leader/facilitator in a community organization.
  • Familiarity with theories and practices of popular education
  • Familiarity with arts-infused education practices.
  • High-level proficiency with Google applications (Drive, Calendar, etc.)
  • Thorough and creative lesson-planning, paired with the ability to improvise in the classroom
  • Attentiveness to detail demonstrated in thorough execution of major media projects
  • Experience working collaboratively with a diverse staff.
  • Excellent interpersonal, written, and communication skills; strong public speaking skills.
  • Excellent self-management and time-management skills
  • Ability/desire to work flexible hours, including occasional evenings and weekends, and willingness to travel occasionally.

Compensation: $20 per hour, for 10 hours per work week, including roughly:

  • 3 instructional hours
  • 3 prep hours
  • 4 flex hours, which may cover: lesson reflection/debrief with partnering , DFS staff meetings, support for various DFS events
  • Option to join group health/dental benefits plan.

★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Like Detroit Future Schools on Facebook and follow on Twitter.


DFS Rida Institute Transforms Teachers

"How do you tap into students’ resiliency and channel their personal frustration and dissatisfaction against the social system that undermines their humanity?" – Patrick Camangian, DFS Rida Institute Plenary Speaker

Last month, 27 educators decided to spend the last three days of their precious mid-Winter break packed in the Allied Media Projects office re-imagining what is possible within their schools and classrooms. They explored the question above from both a theoretical perspective and a deeply nuts-and-bolts perspective.

They were part of the first-ever Detroit Future Schools Rida Institute: a condensed version of the year-long DFS’ professional development training in humanizing education. The training walked teachers through the DFS "Rida Framework," a curriculum-planning tool that flips the test-driven approach to education on its head. Instead of working backwards from the goal of test scores, the DFS Rida Framework supports teachers to articulate:

  • a clear purpose of education within the specific contexts of their communities,
  • the principles and skills they need to actualize that purpose in their classrooms, and
  • the metrics they will use to measure learning and growth.

Over the three days of the Institute, participants took a deep dive into each facet of the Rida Framework. They explored the educational theories of Paulo Freire, Jeff Duncan-Andrade, and James and Grace Lee Boggs, and they grew supportive relationships with each other.

To learn more about the Rida Institute, watch this recap video, produced by DFS Lead Artist, Nate Mullen.




"This was by far the best and most clear presentation of education principles/practice I've ever experienced." – Matthew Cross, professor (Macomb County Community College)

"I felt validated being here. Being with other people who are working to humanize education made me feel less vulnerable in pursuing this honorable endeavor." – Ben Williams, teacher (Pioneer High School)

"I had to dig deep and stretched out of my comfort zone (and continue to) in order to define my purpose and principles, something we take for granted, but is a definite missing piece to the profession of teaching. I will definitely take this tool and encourage my cohorts and colleagues to examine for themselves." – Susan Matous, teacher and administrator (Blanche Kelso Bruce Academy)

"This is the best, most honest and reflective professional development I've ever attended. We were all deeply engaged in the work, because the leaders made this content so engaging. I became a teacher 20 years ago and so wish I had this kind of opportunity in my first years of teaching like other participants. Regardless, it has transformed how and what I will do with the remainder of my career. – Marcia Russell K-12 Educator/Consultant

Rida Institute

Become a sustainer of Detroit Future Schools if you want to help make sure trainings like this can happen again in the future.

If you wanted to attend the training, but weren't able to, you can connect with the DFS Ridas this Summer at the Allied Media Conference, where they will be leading sessions and participating in the Education for Liberation Network GatheringClick here to register for the AMC!

★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Like Detroit Future Schools on Facebook and follow on Twitter.


FEB 21-22 | DFS "Ed Talks" featuring Grace Lee Boggs, Nate Walker, and Patrick Camangian, Ph.D.


Detroit Future Schools invites all educators, youth, parents and community members to join us for two important conversations about the purpose of education and the practice of transforming classrooms for a more just, creative, and collaborative world. These panels will be taking place in conjunction with the Detroit Future Schools Rida Institute.

Both events are free and open to the public and will be held at Allied Media Projects, 4126 Third St., Detroit, MI 48201. RSVP on Facebook.


Friday, February 21, 11:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.

Speakers: Grace Lee Boggs & Nate Walker

How can we practice transformative education in our classrooms if we don't fully understand the systems we are working to transform and how they came to be? In this panel, Detroit activist-philosopher and education theorist, Grace Lee Boggs will provide a long-view of the evolution of schooling in this country and articulate the need for a humanizing education system that will restore human relationships to each other, our communities, and to the planet. Nate Walker, an organizer for the American Federation of Teachers in Detroit, will describe the features of local educational ecosystems today that can either impede or facilitate this kind of humanizing education.


Saturday, February 22, 2014, 10:00 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.

Speaker: Patrick Camangian, Ph.D.

Authentic transformation in the classroom requires "an ability to read the world," as Paulo Freire says, that empowers students to transform their actual lives. Patrick Camangian is an assistant professor in the Department of Teacher Education at the University of San Francisco and has been an English teacher since 1999, continuing in the tradition of teacher-research, applying socially transformative teaching in urban schools. He will share lessons from his extensive work as an educator and researcher in urban schools throughout California, cultivating this ability in young people to read and shape their worlds. He will share the practices teachers can use to treat young people’s most pressing concerns as worthy of intellectual interrogation, and the jumping-off point for all learning.

★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Keep us going and growing: Sign-up to become a DFS sustainer!

Like Detroit Future Schools on Facebook.


Detroit Future Schools at the Free Minds Free People and Preemptive Education conferences

As we gear up to host the DFS Rida Institute in February 2014, we are reflecting on the incredible work for transformative education happening all across the country. We have been thrilled to see how much Detroit Future Schools has to offer and how much we have to learn from other communities. Detroit Future Schools has presented at several education conferences at which we’ve had the opportunity to learn about democratic, youth-centered, and social justice oriented education work taking place across the country. We will be drawing insight and inspiration from these conferences as we prepare for the DFS Rida Institute which will welcome a group of transformative educators to Detroit. Apply to participate in the Rida Institute.

Below, Isaac Miller, a Detroit Future Schools artist-in-residence, shares his reflections from two national education conferences he recently attended on behalf of DFS: Free Minds, Free People and the Preemptive Education conference.


free-minds-free-peopleby Isaac Miller

Free Minds Free People

I traveled to the Free Minds Free People (FMFP) conference in Chicago in order to present on DFS with Helen Lee, a teacher whose classrooms participated in DFS for the first two years of the program. I had heard wonderful things about FMFP but this was my first time attending. Everyone I met and heard present at the conference was deeply committed to a vision of democratic, youth-centered public education, one that is rooted in community and dedicated to fostering social justice both inside and beyond the classroom. Particularly in light of the constant attacks on public education and the demonization of teachers and teachers unions, it is inspiring to learn about networks of educators and young people who are fighting back and working to put into practice their vision of democratic, liberatory education. Here are some of the highlights:

  • Students from the Mexican American Studies (MAS) program in Tucson Unified School District presented about the incredible, transformative education that they received through the Tucson ethnic studies program and also what they learned from their involvement in struggling to defend ethnic studies against its removal by the Republican-controlled legislature and school board. This struggle, profiled in the documentary film Precious Knowledge, is an inspiring example of when educational work taking place in the classroom is inseparable from the wider community's struggle for liberation.
  • Teachers Activist Groups (TAGs) are grassroots groups of teachers who gather in cities across the country both to support one another in implementing democratic, liberatory pedagogy and also to organize together to defend public education and to advocate for more socially just educational policies within their cities and across the country. Presenters at the TAG workshop discussed their "Revealing Racist Roots" curriculum about the Jena 6, which discussed issues of structural and historic racism. They also shared their efforts to support the Mexican American Studies program in Tucson, including organizing teachers across the country to sign a pledge to teach the ethnic studies curriculum that was banned by the Tucson school board, and to teach their students about the injustices taking place in Arizona. Other solidarity efforts by the TAGs included supporting the 2013 Chicago teachers strike and the action by teachers at Seattle's Garfield High School to refuse to administer standardized tests to their students, which they saw as taking away from the real work of teaching and learning.
  • Among the most compelling speakers on the Keynote plenary of Free Minds, Free People was 9-year old Asean Johnson, who gave a rousing speech at a rally against school closings in Chicago that has nearly 330,000 views on YouTube. The keynote also featured Karen Lewis, President of the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU), which organized the 2013 Chicago teachers strike, one of the most successful US labor actions in decades.

Preemptive Education Conference

This was my third time attending the Preemptive Education conference in New York, but my first time specifically presenting on the work of Detroit Future Schools. Preemptive Education, sponsored jointly by the youth literary arts non-profit Urban Word NYC, New York University, and Teachers College at Columbia University, is a grounding and inspiring event that showcases the work of literary and hip-hop arts educators from New York and across the country. It is a training specifically geared towards classroom teachers and teaching artists seeking to deepen their practice and learn from peers. This conference was especially useful for me since this year the classroom I am working with through DFS is a performance poetry class at Tri-County Educational Center, a public alternative high school in Southfield, MI. The highlights included:

  • A lecture by Maxine Greene, the 95 year old educator and philosopher of education who was a long time professor at Teachers College, as well as the philosopher-in-residence at Lincoln Center. She founded the Maxine Greene Foundation for Social Imagination, the Arts, and Education and inspired the High School of Arts, Imagination and Inquiry, a New York public school. At 95, Greene rarely gives public lectures and so it was a great honor to hear her speak about her philosophies of education and the importance of arts and the "aesthetic moment" in the learning process and in re-shaping our communities and world. Greene spoke in conversation with Meghan McDermott, former Executive Director of theGlobal Action Project.
  • A performance / panel discussion hybrid in which Urban Word youth read their poems and a panel of academics and activists responded to the themes raised in the poems. These themes ranged from beauty, gender, and race to the multiple violences of poverty, and the ability of social media to both disconnect and activate its users on issues of social justice. In this conversation, Dr. David Stovall, from Chicago made the profound statement that "poverty is not a culture, its a condition." In other words, people don't choose to be poor, they are made poor by a social structure that depends on inequality.
  • A session on building poetry communities on college campuses, and a session on the concept of "hacker literacies", or how young people re-mix and re-appropriate technology for their own purposes.
  • A keynote speech by Kevin Coval, the artistic director of Young Chicago Authors and co-founder of the teen poetry slam festival "Louder Than A Bomb". Coval spoke movingly about the power of poetry as an organizing tool, and a way for young people to connect across neighborhood, race, and class boundaries that are rarely crossed in our schools. This speech was particularly powerful because the students in the class I work with at Tri-County Educational Center recently watched the documentary filmLouder Than A Bomb, which profiles the Chicago festival, and had the opportunity to work with guest poet Nate Marshall, one of the film’s stars.
  • A session presented by Danielle Filipiak, a former DFS teacher who I worked with during the first year of DFS, and who is now a doctoral student at Teachers College. Danielle presented with Bryce Anderson-Small, a hip hop artist and educator who is one of the mentors with5E/Heru. Danielle spoke in person and Bryce presented remotely from Detroit using Google Hangout about their work together, including developing an online resource based on the work of 5E/Heru that has been featured on the National Writing Project's Digital Is website. Danielle also shared a number of resources around the idea of "Connected Learning", which was the theme of this year's Preemptive Education conference.
  • A youth day at the Brooklyn youth center El Puente. Along with my friend and colleague Moira Pirsch (who works for the Hiphop Archive and the Office for the Arts at Harvard, and who was a coordinator for the Poetry and Music as Transformative Media track at the 2011 Allied Media Conference). Moira and I co-facilitated back to back workshops on the topic of using social media to build poetry/arts communities that can stay connected across geographic distance. This was a great deal of fun, and brought us to the end of the day, with a concert by Urban Word poets and emcees.

Free Minds Free People and Preemptive Education represent the kind of educational networks that I hope will continue to flourish and grow in coming years. As Detroit Future Schools continues to grow and evolve I hope we will deepen our connection with these and other such networks in order to share the lessons we've learned and to learn from others doing this challenging, rewarding, and visionary work.

★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

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