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Winter 2017: Toward Education Justice

A Collaborative Community Classroom Organized by UM + WSU

Join us this semester as we aim to make sense of how we arrived at today's dynamic education landscape in Detroit.  In previous Speaker's Series we have dabbled in the arena of education, but this time we'll take a deeper dive. Together we will examine everything from the purpose of learning, to the meaning of "public" schooling, to the historic impact of segregation and racism on educational equity in this region, to the most recent period of "emergency mismanagement" by the state of Michigan, to much, much more!  Every Thursday evening session is held from 7:30-9:30pm at the Cass Corridor Commons (4605 Cass Avenue). 

This is a community classroom - everyone is welcome! Free and always preceded by a light dinner. So check out the dates below and plan to participate this winter!

Detroiters Speak is curated and promoted this semester by a wonderful collaborative team:  David Goldberg (Professor, WSU Department of African American Studies), eliza perez-ollin and Peter Hammer (WSU Detroit Equity Action Lab at the Damon J. Keith Center for Civil Rights), Dr. Melba Boyd (Chair, WSU Department of African American Studies), Stephen Ward (SID Faculty Director & Associate Professor, Department of Afro-American and African Studies, Residential College), Craig Regester (SID Associate Director, Adjunct Lecturer), and Marion Berger (SID Program Coordinator).

*U-M undergraduate students can register for the 1-credit minicourse, RC IDIV 350.003. WSU students should contact for registration information.

Free transportation from Ann Arbor is provided by the MDetroit Connector which departs the Central Campus Transit Center (CCTC) at 5:50pm on Thursdays. (NOTE: Taking the 5:50pm trip automatically includes a return trip which will depart the Cass Corridor Commons at 9:45pm following the Speaker Series.)

All readings and class discussions can be found on our Basecamp project site. Please email Hollyn Formosa ( to be added to the site. 

All Sessions are Thursdays from 7:30pm-9:30 p.m. at the Cass Corridor Commons (4605 Cass Ave.)

February 9th: Introduction - What is the Purpose of Education?

Join us for our opening session this semester as we aim to make sense of how we arrived at today's dynamic education landscape in Detroit.

In this first session, we'll introduce our collaborative teaching team from WSU and UM and our unique community classroom model; we'll facilitate a dialogue on the meaning and experience of learning; and we'll share our expectations for each other and this class.  


February 16th: Detroit Public Schools - Race, History, & Purpose

This Thursday we will be joined by Helen Moore, Malik Yakini, and Jeffrey Robinson to discuss the history of Detroit Public Schools. This panel will be moderated by Peter Hammer (WSU Detroit Equity Action Lab & Damon J. Keith Center for Civil Rights). 

Speaker bios below: 


Helen Moore has been a life-long advocate and warrior for the children of Detroit, beginning with her days as a State of Michigan Social Worker and continuing with Black Parents for Quality Education and The Keep the Vote No Takeover Coalition. She is also a member of Detroit’s Council of Elders. Ms. Moore educates her community on school district policy, student rights, and other education-related legal issues and parental involvement efforts. She earned a bachelor's degree from Wayne State University and a juris doctorate from the Detroit College of Law. 


Malik Kenyatta Yakini is an activist and educator who is committed to freedom and justice for African people in particular and humanity in general. From 1990 – 2011 he served as Executive Director of Nsoroma Institute Public School Academy, one of Detroit’s leading African-centered schools. Malik is a founder and Executive Director of the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network. Malik is dedicated to working to identify and alleviate the impact of racism and white privilege on the food system. He has an intense interest in contributing to the development of an international food sovereignty movement that embraces black farmers in the Americas, the Caribbean and Africa. He is the father of three. 


Dr. Jeffery D. Robinson is a native of Detroit, and a product of the Detroit Public School system. He is a Senior Administrator within DPS and is former Principal of The Paul Robeson Malcolm X Academy of the Detroit Public School System; the nation’s first public African-Centered School. He holds a Bachelor Degree in Criminal Justice Pre-Law from Michigan State University and a Masters Degree in Educational Administration from the University of Detroit Mercy. He proudly holds a Doctorate Degree in African American & African Studies, Education and Policy from Michigan State University. Dr. Robinson is the Senior Pastor of the Mt. Calvary Missionary Baptist Church on the Detroit’s eastside. He is an Associate Professor in the African American & African Studies Program at Michigan State University, as well as Adjunct Professor in the Africana Studies Program at Wayne State University. He is in the final stages of completing research on his first book “In the Interest of Others: A Critical Race Analysis of Detroit Public Schools”. He is a happy husband and proud father.

Readings for February 16th: 

February 23rd: Black, Brown, & Red Power - Schooling Resistance

Tonight's session will be co-moderated by eliza qualls perez, Director, Detroit Equity Action Lab, and Stephen Ward, Associate Professor, UM-Ann Arbor, Department of Afroamerican and African Studies/Residential College, faculty director, UM Semester in Detroit.

Speakers will include Dr. Karl Gregory, Nicholas Brown, and Sarah Brant.

Speaker Bios:

A lifelong activist for racial equality, civil, and human rights, economist Karl Gregory has advised Michigan governors and served under several U.S. Presidents. Dr. Gregory earned a Ph.D. in economics from the University of Michigan and served on the faculty of Wayne State University for several years before joining Oakland University. Dr. Gregory regards his greatest role as being an "activist with a great commitment for community betterment globally, nationally, and locally."

Nicholas Brown is the principal at the Academy of the Americas, a dual language immersion PK-11 Detroit Public School located in southwest Detroit. He graduated from Michigan State University with a bachelor's degree in elementary education and received a master's degree in educational leadership from Wayne State University. As an educator for eighteen years, he has spent eleven years as a bilingual teacher in grades 5-8, three years as an assistant principal, and four as a principal. 

Sa:go, aanii, Sarah is Mohawk and a member of the Muncey Delaware nation. Sarah is an active advocate in the native community having a background in community outreach and program management. Sarah was with the North American Indian Association for 10 years and now works as the SOC Care Coordinator at American Indian Health and Family Services. She is an avid beader and enjoys powwows, crafts, and time with family and friends.


Readings for February 23rd:

March 9th: The Crisis in Public Education in Detroit Since the 1990s

This panel will be moderated by Peter Hammer (WSU Detroit Equity Action Lab & Damon J. Keith Center for Civil Rights). 

Speaker Bios:


Helen Moore has been a life-long advocate and warrior for the children of Detroit, beginning with her days as a State of Michigan Social Worker and continuing with Black Parents for Quality Education and The Keep the Vote No Takeover Coalition. She is also a member of Detroit’s Council of Elders. Ms. Moore educates her community on school district policy, student rights, and other education-related legal issues and parental involvement efforts. She earned a bachelor's degree from Wayne State University and a juris doctorate from the Detroit College of Law. 


My passion for education began bubbling within me long before I could articulate it. As a youngster I was decidedly unchallenged by school. Ironically that led me to acquire a Bachelor’s in Psychology, a Master’s in Education, certification in Bilingual Education, and finally, a Doctorate in Curriculum and Instruction. All of this was in pursuit of the magic formula for 'evening the playing field' for all of my students. I began utilizing gifted and talented strategies (constructivist education) and saw amazing results in the progress of our students. My Experience as Michigan Teacher of the Year, National Distinguished Principal as well as an Educational Fulbright exchange allowed me such incredible experiences that are invaluable in my work even today. Upon retirement from my being a principal, I worked for several years as an Educational Coach in Detroit Public Schools; I currently dedicate my time towards fulfilling the mission of Simply Start Kids.


Russ Bellant is a retired City of Detroit employee, President of the Helco Block Club, President of the Detroit Library Commission, member of the Detroit Public Schools Task Force and also a founding steering committee member of RESTORE northeast Detroit.

Readings for March 9th: 

March 23rd: Examining University Engagement with Detroit

In this special U-M bicentennial edition of Detroiters Speak, our panelists will reflect upon and examine university student engagement in Detroit and with Detroiters. How do/should students and faculty of higher education institutions in southeast Michigan engage with Detroit and Detroiters in efforts that build a more equitable educational landscape?

Moderated by Craig Regester, Associate Director/Adjunct Lecturer, U-M Semester in Detroit.

Speakers will include:


Dr. Kendra Hearn is Clinical Associate Professor at UM School of Education; Chair of Secondary Teacher Education; and Director of Teach For America Interim Certification Program. Prior to coming to the School of Education, Kendra Hearn was the assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction for the West Bloomfield (Michigan) School District (2006-2010). Prior to this role, Hearn served the West Bloomfield School District as its curriculum director (2005-2006); in the Lincoln Consolidated School District in Ypsilanti as its curriculum director (2003-2005); as a professional development consultant for the Macomb Intermediate School District (2001-2003); and as a high school English language arts teacher at West Bloomfield High School (1996-2001) and Detroit Public Schools (1993-1996).


Joel Berger, a 2010 University of Michigan graduate, spent his formative years growing up in Detroit’s East English Village neighborhood. He is a second generation teacher in Detroit schools – his mother taught in Detroit Public Schools for twenty-seven years. He has teaching experience in charter schools, the EAA, and Detroit Public Schools. He is currently in his seventh year teaching, now teaching high school English in the Detroit Public Schools Community District at Cass Technical High School. He has also been active in a number of education activism and teachers' union organizing efforts in Detroit, and was recently elected to the Executive Board of the Detroit Federation of Teachers, AFL-CIO. Joel received his teaching certification through the Teach For America alternate certification program at the University of Michigan. 


Ashley Lucas is Associate Professor of Theatre & Drama and the Residential College as well as Director of the Prison Creative Arts Project (PCAP) at the University of Michigan. She is a fellow of the Ford Foundation, the UNC Faculty Engaged Scholars Program, and UNC’s Institute for Arts and Humanities. Lucas is also the author of an ethnographic play about the families of prisoners entitled Doin’ Time: Through the Visiting Glass, which she has performed as a one-woman show throughout the U.S. and in Ireland and Canada.


Aaron Kinzel is a lecturer in Criminology and Criminal Justice Studies at the University of Michigan-Dearborn. He is also a consultant that has worked with the U.S. Department of Justice and has worked on progressive public policy reform. Kinzel's passion for change comes from the adversity he faced in his early years surrounded by family members involved in criminality. Kinzel became a juvenile delinquent and spent 10 years in prison when he was only 18 years old. He has been featured in numerous media outlets including the Huffington Post.


Molly Sweeney is the Organizing Director for 482Forward. She graduated from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor in 2009 with a degree in Sociology: International Social Change. She is a native of Cleveland, Ohio. After college, Molly worked as the lead organizer of the Detroit Action Commonwealth, a homeless union, and as a section-8 tenant organizer. With D.A.C Molly led successful campaigns to create a homeless court, to change secretary of state policy, and to remove the question of misdemeanor and felony from city job applications.

Thanks to U-M Ann Arbor colleagues, Karyn Lacy, Ian Robinson, Stephen Ward, and Ashley Lucas, for their help in shaping and organizing this event, and for the additional support from the UM-LSA Bicentennial Theme Semester committee and staff.

Readings for March 23rd: 

The websites below will give you a good basis in the theory and practice of prison-based creative arts education, and how UM-Ann Arbor and UM-Dearborn faculty place undergraduate students in unique co-learning environments inside prisons.

March 30th: Emergency Mismanagement - The State's Role in Detroit's Public Education

This panel will be moderated by Peter Hammer (WSU Detroit Equity Action Lab & Damon J. Keith Center for Civil Rights). 

Speaker Bios:

Arlyssa Heard, mother of two boys, is an Organizer and Policy Lead. She graduated from Northwood University with a degree in Accounting and a BA in Business Administration.Arlyssa began her work in Research and Evaluation at Michigan State University’s dept of psychiatry assessing local family intervention programs. Soon after, she started educating families and advocating for children at the Detroit Health Department. As a mother of a child with Sickle Cell Anemia, she was a statewide voice for parents while serving as a board member for Children’s Special Health Care Services.In 2014, Arlyssa ran, as a first timer, for Detroit Public School Board securing 25,000+ votes. She is a current board member on the Focus: Hope village steering committee, an active “Mamavist” and board member for grassroots organization Mothering Justice, and serves on the parent advisory council of The Children’s Center (Detroit). She has also served on several parent advisory councils for Detroit Public Schools and grassroots neighborhood community councils.

Tom Pedroni is an Associate Professor of Curriculum Studies and Policy Sociology and Director of the Detroit Data and Democracy Project. His current research examines educational and social inequality in relation to the post-welfarist educational policy complex of Detroit. Tom has published articles in peer-reviewed journals including Teachers College Record and Urban Review, as well as a number of chapters in edited volumes. His first book Market Movements: African American Involvement in School Voucher Reform (Routledge Critical Social Thought series) received the 2009 Critics’ Choice Book Award from the American Educational Studies Association.Tom received his Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin in 2003. He teaches courses in critical education studies, curriculum studies, critical youth studies, and critical theory. A central concern in Tom’s teaching and research is the promotion of schools as sites in which youth develop the analytical skills and leadership qualities to identify and act upon problems that impact the community and region.

Readings for March 30th: 

April 6th: Teaching & Learning in Detroit's Schools Today

Speakers included: Becca Dorn (parent of Boggs School students), Soh Suzuki (Board member, Boggs School), Brian Diskin (Long-time DPS Teacher, currently at Cass Tech), and 3 current Detroit high school students.

Questions we'll consider include:- How do parents make choices about where to educate their children in Detroit today? What are the many tradeoffs to be considered?- Why does choosing to open a grassroots, community-based charter school such as the Boggs School fit into larger efforts to bring education justice to Detroiters?- How do Detroit teachers reconcile the daily need to stay focused on educating their students with the greater systemic challenges that have been present for several decades now? - What do current DPSCD students think about the state of education in Detroit schools today? 

Moderated by Craig Regester, Associate Director/Adjunct Lecturer, UM Semester in Detroit Program.

Readings for April 6th:

April 13th: Envisioning a Better Future - Public Education in Detroit

In this final session of Detroiters Speak: Toward Education Justice, eliza qualls perez (DEAL) and Stephen Ward (UM-SID) will co-moderate a collective discussion on "Envisioning a Better Future for Public Education". 

Speakers will include:

Tom Stephens (Detroit Independent Freedom Schools - DIFS)
Erin Martinez (Detroit Children's Museum)
Two High School Students from DIFS

Come prepared to share your visions in small groups and in the closing large-group discussion. 

**Bonus: Food coming once again from La Nuestra Familia.