Can education be liberatory in its current state or must a new system be built up?
WHBLE founder, award-winning writer, director and applied theatre educator, Ah-Keisha McCants, hosts conversations with educators, school leaders, parents, and students to discuss the state of education, and systemic problems facing youth in schools.
Our Students Are Not a Monolith
WHBLE founder, Ah-Keisha McCants speaks with Claremont Graduate University, PhD Candidate Kenya Marshall-Harper about the power of relationship-building in schools, leveraging the needs and assets of students and families, the problematic role of productivity in schools, and the importance of the talent development of underserved youth, including Black women and girls, and teachers.
Kenya R. Marshall-Harper is a PhD candidate in education at Claremont Graduate University. Her research interests include K-12 education, early preparation of gifted and talented students, and underserved populations. As a secondary English and English Language teacher, she has worked with diverse students for over 14 years. She has received national and international awards including the Tae Han Kim Award and the Chancellor’s Doctoral Incentive Award for high achievement. She has presented at numerous conferences on the talent development of notable individuals including successful women of color. Her dissertation focuses on the talent development and productivity of African-American female faculty.
Solving the Inequities that Divide
WHBLE’s CEO, award-winning writer and director, Ah-Keisha McCants talks with Kwame Sarfo-Mensah, founder of Identity Talk Consulting. A former math teacher in Philadelphia and Boston public schools, Kwame talks about the rampant and ignored racial and socioeconomic disparities in educational access, the reactionary approach of schools in the midst of the pandemic, and what might be gained in meeting the demand for alternative career pathway opportunities as a means of achievement and liberation for Black students and their peers.
Kwame Sarfo-Mensa is the founder of Identity Talk Consulting, LLC., an independent educational consulting firm that provides professional development and consulting services to educators globally who desire to enhance their instructional practices and reach their utmost potential in the classroom. Throughout his 14-year career as a public school educator, author, and entrepreneur, Kwame has been on a personal mission to uplift and empower educators who are committed to reversing the ills of the public education system in America and globally. As a staunch ambassador and advocate for teacher empowerment, Kwame has spoken at numerous national education conferences and worked diligently to support the recruitment and retention of teachers of color in the education system. In January 2019, he was one of 35 Massachusetts teachers of color by Commissioner Jeff Riley to be in the inaugural cohort of the InSPIRED (In-Service Professionals Increasing Racial and Ethnic Diversity) Fellowship, an initiative organized by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary & Secondary Education for veteran teachers of color to recruit students of color at the high school, undergraduate, and graduate levels to teach in targeted districts within the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. As an InSPIRED Teaching Fellow, Kwame facilitated professional development workshops for aspiring teachers at universities such as Boston College, UMass Boston, and Worcester State University and has served as a guest speaker for non-profit teacher pipeline programs such as Generation Teach and Worcester Public Schools’ Future Teachers Academy.
Recognizing the increasing demand for alternative career pathway opportunities within the Black and Latinx teaching community in the Greater Boston area, Kwame founded and organized the inaugural Boston Edupreneurs of Color Symposium, a one-day community event for educators and community members looking to leverage their skill sets as educators to give back to the community, learn valuable lessons about the importance of entrepreneurship and the necessary steps they need to build a successful small business and/or a non-profit organization. A proud graduate of Temple University, Kwame holds a Bachelor's Degree in Mathematics and a Master's Degree in Education. He was honored as the 2019 Member of the Year by Black Educators Rock, Inc. for his unwavering commitment to the advancement of the teacher profession. As he has ascended the ranks of the teaching profession, Kwame has always stayed true to his identity as an educator and is motivated to help others do the same as they navigate their educator journeys.
Framing Whiteness in Liberation pt. 1
WHBLE founder, Ah-Keisha McCants talks with Applied Theatre Practitioner and Project Director at the CUNY Creative Arts Team (CAT) Mícheál Curtin about the surfacing the awareness of white identity, centering antiracism and history, the role of capitalism, the brilliance of arts educators, and the tensions around pedagogies and practices on the journey towards educational liberation.
Mícheál Curtin is an applied theatre practitioner from Brooklyn, New York who specializes in drama-in-education, process drama, theatre of the oppressed, and devised theatre. His work centers on creating theatre in response to communities’ needs as a way of en-livening conversation, making meaning, and developing theory.
He is currently a Project Director at the CUNY Creative Arts Team (CAT), where he directs a theatre-in-education program in six high schools around New York City. With the Literacy through Drama team at CAT, Mícheál and six multi-ethnic actor-teachers develop theatre workshops around topics such as romantic and sexual relationships, policing and racist systems, loyalty, the power of language, immigration, and isolation. The team creates curriculum in response to the young people’s interests, needs, and concerns. For this reason they sometimes focus on skill-building around communication, self-efficacy, study skills, and career & college readiness.
A speaker of Irish Gaelic, Mícheál works periodically in Ireland toward the revitalization of the language, whose speakership has declined over the centuries (from 100% to about 3% of the population) as a result of colonialism by the English. He uses drama, storytelling, and popular education methodologies in native-speaker communities as well as in learner communities to teach the language as well as generate dialogue and meaning around it. “I have found that learning my ancestral language has given me a surer footing in my work at home in the US.”
Mícheál has also done applied theatre work in Rwanda with the CUNY School of Professional Studies M.A. in Applied Theatre (2011, 12), with Latinx communities in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, with LGBTQIA+ youth at The Door (a youth center in Manhattan), and in countless public schools around New York City as a teaching artist. He proudly holds an M.A. in Applied Theatre from the CUNY School of Professional Studies.
Mícheál dreams of a world in which “everyone, myself included, is free to love, enjoy, celebrate, and create. I believe the biggest barriers to achieving this are white supremacist capitalism and neocolonialism. I believe that our ability to play, imagine, and create together are powerful assets in the struggle to dismantle these forces.”
The Systems That Bind pt. 2
WHBLE founder, Ah-Keisha McCants talks with Educator and Assistant Principal at Boston Public Schools Gavin Smith about teacher messaging to students, encouraging agency and achievement within urban schools, the role of double consciousness in Black youth, and the reclamation of liberation in the face of systemic oppression.
Gavin Smith is an educator, and Assistant Principal in Boston Public Schools. He is the former runner up for Teacher of the Year in Massachusetts where he taught biology for 7 years. Gavin is of Jamaican origin and spent the majority of his childhood between Jamaica, West Indies and Long Island, New York. He has worked at a variety of schools in Boston including alternative high schools, charter high schools, and exam schools. Gavin is a firm believer [in] education being a means of social change, and an advocate for children as a member of the mentoring group Minds Matter Boston. He is the co-founder of YMOC (Young Men of Color), a group designed to create safe space for intergenerational conversation and community building amongst men of color in the Boston area. Gavin holds degrees from Northeastern University, Simmons University, and Boston College. He is an avid runner, Knicks fan and lover of all things black.
The Systems That Bind part. 1
WHBLE founder, Ah-Keisha McCants talks with Research Analyst Donté McGuire about whiteness, white allyship and the redistribution of resources, the role of labels and the ways context and identity matter in navigating systems of oppression.
Donté McGuire serves as a Research Analyst at Higher Ed Insight. He has experience in various educational contexts including international education, high school re-entry and completion, college access, residence life and housing, program evaluation, and diversity, equity, and inclusion. He is a doctoral candidate in the University of Maryland’s Higher Education program and is earning a graduate certificate in Women’s Studies. Donté’s scholarship focuses on improving educational access and success for marginalized groups, cross-cultural education and understanding, and culturally competent leadership. He earned a MEd in Higher Education Administration from North Carolina State University and a BA in Psychology with a minor in Sociology from Wake Forest University.
Healing for Liberation pt. 2
WHBLE founder, Ah-Keisha McCants talks with registered nurse and entrepreneur Tekita Bankhead about centering Black women and girls, the negative toll a culture of exceptionalism, order, and perfectionism has on mental health, the role of learning via technology during Covid19, honoring the experiences and emotional expressions of Black women, and where dialogue is situated in liberatory in education.
Tekita Bankhead is a registered nurse, entrepreneur, and Student Affairs professional. She currently serves as the Specialist in Education at the University of Illinois Counseling Center. She received her Master of Science degree in Counselor Education with an Emphasis in Student Affairs Administration from Mississippi State University and her Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree from Mississippi University for Women. Her professional experiences focus primarily on mental health, social justice, effective coping skills, race-related trauma, and women’s empowerment. Tekita is a noted speaker, instructor, and independent consultant who delivers innovative educational workshops designed to tackle complex issues of inclusive leadership, cultural humility, wellness, and identity. In her spare time, she enjoys being a community servant as an active member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. and working as the Creator/Editor-In-Chief of her business, The Pedestal Project, LLC, which focuses on uplifting Black women through an online platform and dialogue-based events in the Champaign-Urbana community. To learn more about the Pedestal Project, LLC, visit pedestalproject.com or connect on social media (@pedestalproject).
Healing for Liberation pt. 1
WHBLE founder, Ah-Keisha McCants talks with actor, artist, educator, activist and CEO of Got to Stop, LLC Erika L. Ewing about engaging community activism through storytelling, COVID19’s impact on culture and education, and the role of forgiveness on the path to liberation.
Erika L Ewing is an actor and activist—a true"ARTIVIST" she has a gift and passion for empowering communities to believe in the power of the arts to heal, unite, and be a catalyst for social change and transformation. Erika co-produced two social justice public art installations. In July 2020, the Black Lives Mural in Harlem and in August 2020, #IAMTHEVOTE a voters education and registration drive initiative produced by the Can’t Be Silenced organization founded by Maria A. Davis featuring artist Jason Wallace of Jason Wallace Studio.
Erika was born in Baltimore, Maryland, raised in Westbury, NY, and spent most of her time in Grandmother's brownstone and the church in Harlem, NY. Harlem was the place that sparked her curiosity, inspired her creativity,and ignited her compassion for the human condition. After graduate school, Erika moved to Harlem and has been a proud "Harlemite" for over 20 years.
Erika holds a BA in Theatre from Smith College and an MFA in Acting, Theatre Arts, from Rutgers University Mason Gross School of the Arts. Her career has encompassed producing, directing, writing, coaching, acting for television, film, and theatre. She has earned professional memberships in both the Actors Equity Association (AEA,) and Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA). Erika has also
worked as an Adjunct Professor at The City University of New York's Graduate Center and a Guest Lecturer at NYU, Tisch School of the Arts.
After sixteen years of experience working and volunteering in underserved communities, she was learning more about the intricacies and components of the systems that perpetuate and reinforce bias, racism, poverty, and discrimination. In 20014, Erika evolved into becoming a social media activist having formed over nine groups on Facebook to evoke change and awake critical consciousness. In 2015, Erika felt it was time to put boots on the ground and start fighting openly against injustice and join the ranks as a NYC Activist. In January
2015, she emerged as the Chief of Staff of Black Lives Matter of Greater NYC (BLMNY) and organized their first MLK Youth March across NYC five boroughs to honor the legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his dream for the children to lead the change. She designed and facilitated workshops to get youth more civically engaged, and set up youth-led voter education drives across the city.
Got To Stop LLC uses the arts, advocacy, and education to raise awareness around social issues that critically impact our communities. Erika combines creativity to spark community conversations to begin the journey towards healing and social change. Having empathy for others drives her total commitment to healing and making social change possible. Got To Stop LLC... "It's not a movement, It's a Lifestyle." By the spring of 2018, Erika the ACTIVIST gained the attention of advocates across the globe and was invited to by an international humanitarian organization UNITAS United To Fight Against Human Trafficking to join their prevention curriculum team.
Erika is radical about social change for the greater good, "by any means and artistic medium necessary."
Black Minds Matter pt. 2
WHBLE founder, Ah-Keisha McCants talks with 2020 high school graduates, Alise Mackey and Reed McCants-Green as they reflect on their experiences as Black youth grappling with the weight of race and racism in the public school system, and the role of the arts and advocacy in finding joy and liberation.
Alise Mackey: Alise Mackey is an incoming freshman at Wesleyan University. For three years, she was a resident playwright for Philly Young Playwrights and has used writing as a tool to educate others and celebrate Blackness. She currently interns for The Conversationalist, a Generation-Z focused organization that facilitates important conversations.
Reed McCants-Green: Reed McCants-Green is a photographer and graphic artist. He created the instagram page "Black at Haven," which is a dedicated safe space for the BIPOC students in the Wallingford-Swarthmore school district to share their stories of racial inequity which currently boasts over 1000 followers. He is a rising freshman at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC).
Black Minds Matter pt. 1
WHBLE founder, Ah-Keisha McCants talks with Personnel Research Psychologist in the U.S. Office of Personnel Management Dr. Alexis Brown about her experiences as a parent advocating for her Black children in public schools, the role of community connection, and the importance of teaching children to self-advocate.
Dr. Brown joined the U.S. Office of Personnel Management as a Personnel Research Psychologist in the Assessment Services Branch of OPM in July 1999. She currently conducts research and provides guidance on programs that support Federal employees in maintaining a healthy work-life existence in the Work Life, Leadership, and Executive Development Office (WLLED).
Dr. Brown leads a team in WLLED which provides ongoing support to agencies in the area of Family and Dependent Care supports for workforce members. She also leads an ongoing effort to support agencies around domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking workplace policies and provides education opportunities for agencies on related issues. Additionally, Dr. Brown is an active contributor to the support that WLLED provides to agencies in the areas of workplace violence, Employee Assistance Programs, and Employee Engagement.
Dr. Brown received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from Hampton University in 1992. She earned a Master of Arts degree in Social Psychology (1996) and a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Social Psychology (1999) from the University of Maryland, College Park. Dr. Brown’s dissertation focused on perceptions of gender discrimination in women. In the spring of 2010, Dr. Brown completed the Certified Professional Coach Program at the International Coach Academy.
Representation, Literacies and the Role of the Multilingual Classroom pt. 2
WHBLE founder, Ah-Keisha McCants interviews Lisa Chong, doctoral student at Teachers College, Columbia University, and Adjunct Professor at Rider University. Lisa talks about her background with Asian American literacy, the role of dialogue, building critical consciousness, and the power of diverse literature and texts to engage students in transformative learning.
Lisa Chong lives in Princeton, New Jersey, with her husband and two boys. She has been teaching composition and research writing as an adjunct at Rider University, New Jersey, for the past 14 years and had facilitated book groups for students in 4th to 11th grade for 12 years before entering Teachers College, Columbia University as a doctoral student in 2018. She received an M.A. in English at Arcadia University in 2004 and an M.Ed. in Reading, Writing, Literacy at the University of Pennsylvania in 2017. Her research interests include Asian American adolescents, dialogic discourse/classroom, literacy practices that foster multiculturalism and critical consciousness, and writing & identity.
Representation and the Role of the Multilingual Classroom pt. 1
WHBLE founder, Ah-Keisha McCants talks with Sindy I. Castro, actress, teaching artist and co-founder of Jugando N Play, a multilingual theatre for young audiences. Sindy talks about the power in engaging a multilingual learning community, and creating space for using languages as assets.
Sindy Isabel Castro is an actress, educator, and theatre artist. She is co-founder of Jugando N Play, a multilingual theatre for young audiences. She graduated with her MA in Applied Theatre from CUNY’s Schools of Professional Studies. She is a teaching artist with the People's Theatre Project, New York City Children's Theatre, Lincoln Center Theater, and Arts Connection. Sindy is bilingual in English and Spanish. She strives to use theatre as a tool for creating multilingual and multicultural spaces where students are empowered to embrace their home languages and cultures in the classroom.
Before moving to NYC, Sindy was a teaching artist/education administrator in Chicago for seven years and worked with Steppenwolf Theatre, Writers Theatre, Northlight Theatre, Adventure Stage Chicago, and Project AIM. She was an invited member of Young IDEA at the IDEA Congress in Paris in 2013, a member of the TAD (Teaching Artist Development) Studio Cohort at Columbia College in 2014, part of the Intermediate Teaching Artist Lab at Lincoln Center Education in 2016, and a U.S. Delegate at the International Teaching Artist Conference (ITAC) in 2018.
Centering Restorative Culture pt. 2
WHBLE founder, Ah-Keisha McCants talks with Universal Systems Coach at Madison Metropolitan School District Jocelyn Lepinski about nurturing community, care, restorative justice, student voice, and leadership modeling in education.
Jocelyn Lepinski is a Universal Systems Coach in the Madison Metropolitan School District. Prior to this, she was a Positive Behavior Support Coach, Instructional Coach, and Social Studies classroom teacher for at-risk 9th and 10th graders in Madison, WI. and is certified National trainer for Developmental Designs.
She received an undergraduate degree from UW-Madison in Sociology and Women’s Studies, a Masters in Social Work from UW-Madison, and a teaching degree from Concordia University. In the spring, 2020, she completed a degree in educational administration from Viterbo University. Jocelyn’s 12+ years educational career has focused on creating safe, engaging, and challenging learning environments for students that are rooted in a social justice curriculum as well as community building and restorative justice whether through leading her own classroom or working to build a brand new school (Capital High in Madison, WI). Jocelyn has a passion for helping people figure out who they are as teachers and leaders, leading groups of people using integrity, humility, and courage, and creating safe environments for everyone around her, whether they are designing a new virtual learning curriculum or trying to put IKEA furniture together. Jocelyn believes, “people of all ages wake up in the morning and want to do good – it is up to us as leaders to find ways to honor this and give them space to be their best selves.”
Centering Restorative Culture pt. 1
WHBLE founder, Ah-Keisha McCants talks with Ph.D Candidate at the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education Christopher Rogers about student advocacy in Philadelphia, the role of history in centering the experiences of students, and lessons in applying restorative, culturally-informed and dialogic practices that bridge learning and life.
Christopher Rogers was born and raised in Chester, PA and is now a Ph.D Candidate within the Reading/Writing/Literacy program at PennGSE. He is a core member of Teacher Action Group Philadelphia, whose work consists of organizing teachers and other community educators to work toward education justice within the city of Philadelphia and beyond. He also maintains a special relationship with the West Philadelphia Cultural Alliance where he serves as Public Programs Director for the Paul Robeson House Museum, located at 4951 Walnut St.. He's a student of history and a deep believer in the power of the arts as a platform for social change.
Applying Theatre pt. 2
WHBLE founder, Ah-Keisha McCants talks with Applied Theatre educator, Ashleigh Bragg about the role of storytelling, embodying nature, health education, and BIPOC & LGBTQ youth representation as liberation within schools.
Ashleigh Estelle Bragg is originally from the West Coast, grew up in Southern California and later in Portland, Oregon where her family of origin currently resides. Ashleigh is an actor-teacher living in New York City for CUNY Creative Arts Team where she serves black and brown students in low income communities at four different high schools in both the Bronx and Brooklyn. She was the MA Graduate Apprenticeship for Diversity in Applied Theatre with the College Adult Program with the Creative Arts Team in New York City.
Ashleigh has a BS in Theatre Performance from Southern Oregon University in Ashland, Oregon, and received an acting apprenticeship with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival for three seasons. She was classically trained in Acting and Theatre Performance at the Pacific Conservatory of Performing Arts School in Santa Maria, California. Through Afrocentric styles of playwriting, storytelling and eco-leadership, she has collaborated with classroom teachers and students with the goal of improving community through racial justice, diversity, inclusion and equity training. She has facilitated students in middle school, high school, college, English Language Learners, LGBTQ communities, rural areas, immigrant populations, and challenging populations in correctional facilities such as Rikers Island with inmates.
She believes the use of Applied Theatre will continue to aid in liberation if we ground our young people in celebrating our roots and where we come from. Through daily actions of compassion and a clear vision of who we are and we are going, we become less fearful of being free.
Applying Theatre pt. 1
WHBLE founder, Ah-Keisha McCants talks with Playwright and Theatre educator, Jarrett McCreary about the role of engaging in critical thinking, and affirmation of the identities, experiences and voices of BIPOC & LGBTQ students using theatre.
Jarrett McCreary is a writer and educator in the Philadelphia area. Artistically, he is a rising playwright which has included finishing the Interact Core Playwright Fellowship in 2019 and having his work professionally produced by The Neighborhood Theater Group in Chicago. Educationally, Jarrett has spent years as a Theater Teaching Artist, teaching at various Philadelphia schools. Currently, he is a Program Specialist at the Attic Youth Center, and is dedicated to using his skills to empower black and brown LGBTQ youth in the city.
Decolonizing Education pt. 2
WHBLE founder, Ah-Keisha McCants talks with playwright, stage director, performance artist, documentary filmmaker, educator, and activist Dr. H. "Herukhuti" Sharif Williams about what he calls, “Erotic epistemology” as well as transformative and revolutionary practices and the power of embodied learning techniques and liberatory traditions in decolonizing education.
H. "Herukhuti" Sharif Williams is a playwright, stage director, performance artist, documentary filmmaker, educator, and activist. His work has been performed at the Bronx Academy of Arts and Dance, New York International Fringe Theatre Festival, and The Village of Arts and Humanities. He is the founder and chief erotics officer of the Center for Culture, Sexuality, and Spirituality, a social enterprise committed to Black liberation through erotic empowerment. He is a professor of interdisciplinary studies, decolonial sexuality, and socially engaged arts at Goddard College and adjunct associate professor of applied theatre research at the City University of New York, School of Professional Studies. His current projects include "No Homo | No Hetero," a documentary film about Black bisexual men, "Telling Our Stories," a documentary film about racism and racial justice activism at Goddard College, and In the Vally of Coming Forth, an Afrofuturist, post-apocalyptic play about destroying white supremacy.
Decolonizing Education pt. 1
WHBLE founder, Ah-Keisha McCants talks with Teacher, Founder and CEO of The Lesesne Collective Corp d/b/a Sisters in Education Circle (SIEC) and the SIEC Retreat Host, Dr. Akosua Lesesne about the Black teaching tradition and education for Black liberation.
Akosua Lesesne, is an educational design leader with expertise in education for Black liberation, grades 6-12 and the Black teaching tradition. She began her career as a high school social studies instructor and has 17 years of teaching, instructional coaching and district level leadership experience within five major, predominantly Black and Latinx urban school districts along the east coast. Akosua was one of the chief architects of a flagship district wide Black male mentoring program with Broward County Public Schools, served on the grant writing team that won the district a $5 million High School Graduation Initiative grant from the United States Department of Education to expand this program, and oversaw the expansion of this program model throughout the district. Her work defending and inspiring our most vulnerable youth has earned her praise from students, parents, colleagues and renowned educational scholars alike. In her latest book, McArthur “Genius” Award-winning educator and renowned author, Lisa Delpit ,wrote this about Lesesne’s impact, “Your tireless efforts to give our children brighter futures is exhausting to watch, but so inspires me to continue the struggle.” In addition to founding and leading Lesesne Learning, Akosua is the Founder and CEO of The Lesesne Collective Corp d/b/a Sisters in Education Circle (SIEC) and the SIEC Retreat Host. She earned a Bachelor’s degree, cum laude, from Harvard University, a Master of Arts in Teaching from Tufts University, and Doctorate at the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education.