We arrived in Denver yesterday and were thrown right into the reality of the Five Points neighborhood. We started at the Blair-Caldwell African American library located in the Five Points neighborhood. Just standing outside we were surrounded by visual and audio cues of gentrification: construction of new housing. This was our first introduction to the area and as external of an impression as it was, it give immediate insight into the surroundings.
We went deeper. Before arriving we read about some of the history of the Five Points neighborhood where we were. We participated in a form of mindful walking through the community. Mindful walking is a way of gathering information and insight through walking around (Jung, 2010). We were relatively informal with our mindful walking but followed a “walking tour” brochure that our teacher distributed. We looked. We walked. We talked. We observed.
At the far end of the Five Points walking tour, we stopped to meet with Candi CdeBaca – the director of Project VOYCE. Project VOYCE is an organization that was started to help support youth voice in education policy. One of the things that stuck with me the most that Candi said was “education is liberation”. She explained how today, our education system is simply schooling. The curiosity and desire to question, which students enter the classroom with, is shut down. Compliance and obedience are cultivated. Education today needs to empower students. True education needs to give students the confidence that they have a voice in this world!
It was nice to talk to Candi because she was so open about her views and was willing to be challenged. She wanted us to ask questions and talk openly. She told us that her some of her views were controversial and she confidently shared them with us. In her opinion, the charter school movement is one of gentrification.
What is gentrification? The word is relatively new but the concept has been around forever. As Candi said, “the best way to erase a group of people is to first erase their culture.” Gentrification does this. It is a modern form of colonization that pushes out lower-income families as more affluent families move in and attempt to renew the area.
Today we visited Omar D. Blair Charter School and listened to some different opinions on charter schools. I am excited to see more charter schools as the weeks go on…
Jung, Yuha. (2014). Mindful walking: The serendipitous journey of community-based ethnography. Qualitative Inquiry 20(5), 621-27.