Bryan Stevenson: Why New Orleans Matters

Bryan Stevenson is executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative of Alabama and a member of the Open Society Foundations U.S. Programs board. I spoke with him recently about why, as a resident of the deep South and a social justice advocate, he believes New Orleans is an important place for action and support.

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An interesting blog, but we need more specifics. Please direct readers to indepth articles on the dialogue and projects that reflect solutions. I'm living out of the U.S. and would appreciate more of the specifics.
Thanks for a taste of inspiration.......

I agree with Bryan that the increased dialogue here is inspiring, but I would also note that it took the Katrina-related devastation of the city to shake a majority of folks out of the socially stagnating "that's the way it's always been and always will be" mentality. I've been involved in outreach for Master Planning of the city and the of the infrastructure of the public schools, and I can tell you it does take some doing to get tired, stressed, meeting-fatigued people to come participate in public discussions. What we know here that maybe others can take away: the personal touch goes a long way. I have called hundreds of people personally to explain to them why their participation is vital, and that it matters. When my neighborhood organization wants to know what it could be doing better, it sends volunteers around to talk to folks. I've lived on three different continents now and this is the only place where someone has come to my door to ask what I think they could do to help me. Making a person feel respected and included fosters participation better than any website. Though you should still have the website.

Because of my concern for the education of both pre-service and in-service teachers, I have been bringing groups to New Orleans to serve Catholic elementary and middle school teachers during our Lourdes College spring break. We have provided sessions on implementation of technology in all subject areas, differentiated instruction, inclusive instruction, and science pedagogy. Last year we brought 2 education majors with learning disabilities who could address the inclusion of elementary students with ADD/ADHD, dyskexia, dysgraphia in heterogeneous classrooms and a student who demonstrated SMARTBOARD-based games in various subject areas.
What I hope to incorporate into the project in Spring, 2011, is the identification and training of competent, talented, energetic NOLA elementary and middle school teachers who could provide this kind of service to their own area schools at the beginning and middle of the academic year in place of the less convenient time of our spring break.
The cost of transportation has been provided by the Sisters of Notre Dame of Toledo OH. The lodging has been provided by the Sisters of Our Lady of Mount Carmel of NOLA. All other expenses have been borne by Lourdes College faculty and student participants. I would appreciate being put in touch with several possible sponsors of this service trip so that I can provide financial assistance to my colleagues and also supply the teachers we inservice with much needed technical and classroom aids and supplies.

Thank you for considering this.
Marya Czech
Lourdes College
Sylvania OH

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