by Ari Robin McKenna
When Drew Campbell was in middle school in the Renton Highlands, he’d often watch recess alone from inside the classroom while all his peers played outside. After they lined up and came back into the building, he was allowed out into the schoolyard for his turn, wondering, “Would I ever be able to interact with the regular kids?” In the large, mostly empty classroom where he spent the rest of the day with two other students — each with their own Individual Education Plan (IEP) — posters mostly covered the windows to shield the three of them from being made fun of. When learning, they were separated by cubicle walls — not unlike those recently used to deter COVID-19 transmission — only they weren’t transparent. The isolation that Campbell felt, and the bullying he faced daily from peers after being excluded from their midst by adults after an ADHD diagnosis, is something he will never forget.
Yet born from this traumatic three years of his life was a desire to hone in on what students with a lot of energy — especially Black boys — need to be able to learn with enthusiasm and purpose. Though the public education system may have tried to fail Campbell, he learned from his experience a critique containing answers to questions now being asked publicly: How can we end the school-to-prison pipeline? How can we stop failing to engage Black boys? How can we make public education more inclusive?
Continue reading Drew Campbell Talks Shine Kinesthetic: Learning by Doing, Exploring, Discovering
by Beverly Aarons
Look, Listen, and Learn TV (LL+L), Seattle’s first and only early learning TV show created by a Black producer for BIPOC kids and families, brought home three Telly Awards. “I was stunned,” LL+L executive producer Val Thomas-Matson said during a telephone interview with the Emerald. She recounted the moment she received the award notice. “I was grateful. I was excited and just felt so validated in that moment.” But that moment almost never happened. For the better part of her youth, Thomas-Matson, who describes herself as a “recipient of [the] educational gap,” was wracked by shame, guilt, and low self-esteem.
“I didn’t do very well in school,” said Thomas-Matson, who proudly announced during the interview that she’s “61 years young” and Seattle born and bred. “It takes a toll on you as a young person when you don’t meet with school success.” Thomas-Matson grew up in the Central District when it was an all Black neighborhood and attended “one of the least performing Seattle public schools.” That young girl could not have imagined she would go on to produce LL+L TV and win one Gold Telly Award for her first season, one Gold Telly Award for episode 7 “Don’t Touch My Fur” and one Silver Telly Award for the mini-episode “What Does ‘Black Lives Matter’ Mean?”
Those kinds of dreams didn’t seem feasible for a young Thomas-Matson who had to grow up fast. She was the eldest and thrust into the role of parenting two siblings who had sickle cell anemia even though she was still a kid herself. “I had a lot of responsibility,” Thomas-Matson said, “and I just kind of had to grin and bear it, if you will, and do the best I could.” But it was a lot for a kid. Influenced by a logic only a child could make sense of, Thomas-Matson felt like the odd man out because she was the only person in her family who didn’t have sickle cell anemia. Meanwhile, her self-esteem was low because she wasn’t performing well in school. By the time she reached her teen years, Thomas-Matson’s self-worth had bottomed out.
But then the words of a stranger touched her.
Continue reading ‘Look, Listen, and Learn’: A Long Journey to Award-Winning Television
by Erin Okuno
With COVID-19 surging, a recession, unemployment in King County at 14%, and the renewed call for justice and equity for BIPOC lives, it’s an important year to pay attention to local as well as national elections. While the country is focused on the November presidential election, Washingtonians would do well to focus on some very consequential local elections coming much sooner.
Washington State’s 2020 primary election is on August 4. Citizens should focus their efforts on exercising the power of the ballot locally and vote in the primary. Those who are not able to vote can still participate in voter education, support candidates, and help get out the vote.
Continue reading OPINION: Vote for Kids August 4