Since 1991, Beacon House has provided afterschool education and youth development services to children in Northeast Washington, DC’s Edgewood community. Our mission is to provide children in Edgewood with a safe, nurturing, and life-expanding community in which to increase their academic achievement, discover their talents, and grow into healthy adults who achieve their greatest potential. Our afterschool education and youth development programs focus on closing the education achievement gap for children ages 5-18 in Ward 5 for whom generational poverty is most persistent. Beacon House is a Black-led, Black benefitting organization located in Edgewood Commons, an affordable housing community in Northeast Washington DC’s Edgewood neighborhood. According to available resident data, the average annual household income in Edgewood Commons is roughly $12,000 and only 56% of parents have high school diplomas. Most of the children we serve live in Edgewood Commons, and 96% are Black. Despite the racial and economic inequities they face, our students prove year after year that they can and will achieve educational success with our support. Since 2008, 94% of our graduating high school seniors went on to attend college or trade school or joined the military. Further, our students and alumni are making their mark on local and national stages in multiple areas of endeavor. They include the Teen Writers of Beacon House, the authors of The Day Tajon Got Shot, a national award-winning young adult book inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement. The DC City Council presented these ten remarkable teen authors with a ceremonial proclamation recognizing their accomplishments in February 2019. Beacon House is unique among greater Washington afterschool organizations as a place-based organization which builds relationships with children and families over many years. Scores of people who attended Beacon House now volunteer in our programs, and some now have children of their own who attend Beacon House. For these reasons and others, Beacon House has become an integral component of Edgewood’s social fabric. In 2020, Beacon House parent Kyia Branham described Beacon House as “the root of this community” and “part of the glue that holds Edgewood together.” On March 30, 2022, Beacon House will hold a 30th Anniversary Celebration Event at Heritage Hall of The Catholic University of America, a longtime Beacon House program partner. This event will begin at 6pm, and we are delighted that DC broadcast news legend Bruce Johnson will serve as our master of ceremonies for the evening. We will come together with program alumni, volunteers, partners, staff and other members of the Beacon House family to celebrate our 30 years of service and impact in Edgewood. For more information about the event and how to attend, please visit https://beaconhousedc.org/30th-anniversary, follow us on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter (@beaconhousedc), or contact Beacon House CEO/Executive Director Kevin Hinton at firstname.lastname@example.org. Looking ahead, Beacon House’s role in creating safety and opportunity for children in Edgewood remains vital. Children we serve are up against historic challenges. Consequently, we are committed to work relentlessly every day, for as long as we are needed, to help our students achieve their greatest potential.
Reading Partners is a national children’s literacy organization that empowers young students from under-resourced communities to build their reading skills and unlock their full potential. This year, Reading Partners DC is celebrating its 10th anniversary, and it’s been a year unlike any other. Through our online tutoring platform, Reading Partners Connects, trained community volunteers work with students from kindergarten through fourth grade, providing individualized reading support using a structured, evidence-based curriculum that is tailored to each student’s needs. Our program works in partnership with 19 Title I elementary schools across the District, and is virtually managed by over 30 AmeriCorps members who, in addition to tutoring, provide coaching to volunteer tutors and assess students’ progress. I am one of them.
My name is Ryan and I joined the team in August 2020 as a literacy lead. When I learned about Reading Partners, applying to become an AmeriCorps member was an easy decision to make. I really appreciated the core values of the organization: reading matters, big challenges are our thing, volunteers get results, together we are better, data drive decisions, laughter keeps us going, and educational equity for all. I was excited for an opportunity not only to gain more specific experience in education, but to also develop myself professionally and personally. I also really appreciated the emphasis on social and emotional learning (SEL) topics such as mindfulness and self-confidence. SEL topics are critical because they teach students how to effectively apply the various skills and attitudes to both understand and manage emotions, set achievable and positive goals, maintain positive relationships, and learn to feel and show empathy for others.
While I was in primary school, I was enrolled in a reading program very similar to Reading Partners and it had a tremendous effect on me. As a child, I didn’t like to read because it wasn’t something I excelled in. But thanks to the extra support, I gained the confidence and skills needed to enjoy reading (and become good at it). Reading is a fundamental life skill, as we need to be able to read written language every single day of our lives. At Reading Partners, I have the opportunity to build important skills that are useful not only in education, but can easily be transferred to any other career field.
My favorite aspect of this role by far is having the privilege to work with our students on a daily basis. I really enjoy logging into a tutoring session and having conversations with a kindergartener and their stuffed animals before we dive into an interesting children’s book and our curriculum. It is the healthy dose of laughter I need to get through my day. Working with Reading Partners, I feel like I am doing important work, while also genuinely having fun every day.
Education during the pandemic has certainly been challenging and has required tremendous innovation and creativity. Throughout the year, all of the AmeriCorps members supported each other and our tutors by having tech training sessions. Since most students are logging in from home, we now work with families more closely than ever, acutely aware that everyone’s life has been affected one way or another by the pandemic. We want to do as much as we possibly can to meet families where they are in the moment, which means flexibility as to when and where sessions take place.
At Reading Partners, we are deeply committed to advancing educational equity for students in DC. We recognize that the ability to read can alter outcomes for young students and entire communities. To move towards educational equity, we need to make high-quality literacy intervention accessible to students everywhere to make sure they have the support they need to be successful in school and beyond. This requires first examining and understanding the unique challenges and barriers that students face and working to dismantle them.
I believe that building an educational environment that is equitable starts with student empowerment. How can we expect students to be successful without giving them the tools they need to succeed? Some of the ways in which Reading Partners strives to build a more equitable educational environment is providing cultural competency training for all staff as well as community volunteers, improving volunteer recruitment strategies with a deeper focus on diversity, enhancing the Core Read Aloud Library to better reflect our student population, and hiring staff with competencies to push forward these initiatives.
Deciding to do a year of service with Reading Partners was one of the greatest decisions I have ever made. Reading Partners is an organization that not only examines the greater systemic issues that students are facing, but does the on-the-ground work to close the opportunity gap. Throughout my service year, I felt supported by both the staff and fellow AmeriCorps members. The training and experience I have received from Reading Partners gave me the opportunity to grow as a person, while fostering and nurturing skills that I will take with me as I continue my career journey.
Earlier this month, middle school students from John Hayden Johnson and Charles Hart took a field trip to the Deloitte office in Arlington, VA. This excursion was just one of many unique opportunities made possible by the After-School All-Stars Washington DC, a local charity that provides free after-school programs for low-income middle school students. The trip to Deloitte was part of the Career Exploration Opportunities Initiative, a program focused on exposing students to attainable and attractive career paths that they may not have been aware of, otherwise.
As the middle schoolers arrived at the Arlington office, they weren’t sure what to expect. They wanted to know, “What does it mean to be a consultant?” Because many of the students were (like most Americans) unfamiliar with Deloitte, they were eager to hear more about the company from the perspective of dedicated staff members. They were greeted by Maddie Devine, a Deloitte Business Technology Analyst who also graciously serves as the Event Lead for the After-School All-Stars. After a dinner provided by the company, students were given a full tour of the facility that included a breakdown of every department. Deloitte staff members spoke about their current projects, and the students were introduced to the newly renovated Deloitte Digital Studio.
The tour culminated in a group activity where students were split into teams and presented with a mock case study, in which they had the opportunity to play the role of ‘Deloitte consultant’ for a notable client: Coca-Cola. The student groups had impassioned dialogues, and then submitted proposals on how Coke might expand its reach in global markets. Then, the groups had the opportunity to pitch their ideas to a few Deloitte staffers. Ranging from athlete endorsements, door-to-door product delivery services, new flavors, and even Coke-sponsored disaster-relief shelters in the developing world, the students’ ideas were amazingly creative and comprehensive. This exercise was impactful: it encouraged the students to be resourceful, to think outside the box, and it served as a wonderful conceptualization of what it means to work for an organization like Deloitte. All at once, the group understood what it means to be a consultant!
After-School All-Stars DC is privileged to have Jared Townshend, a Deloitte staff member, as an advisory board member. Jared acts as the official sponsor for ASAS DC within Deloitte, and is the Managing Director for the company within the Government and Public Services team. Together with Maddie, Jared sent the All Stars off in style with parting gifts, courtesy of Deloitte. Staffers posed for a photo with the group, and passed out hot cocoa as students left. The ASAS DC partnership with Deloitte has been characterized by the warmth and hospitality the students experienced on their field trip, and it is greatly appreciated.
This trip to Deloitte exposed the All Star students to a career path worth aspiring to. The students left the office full of excitement, expressing admiration for the dynamic work that the consultants take on to meet client-needs. The students all saw themselves serving in similar roles in future careers, and said they’d be proud to work for the organization.
As always, ASAS DC will continue to provide these events to the students we serve. In this way, we will work to expand their worldview, increase their self-esteem, and help them understand the kind of success they are capable of achieving.
Encore Stage and Studio
In the spirit of community, sharing, and giving, we want you to hear from four of our teaching artists that work with “the Healthy Play Initiative” (HPI), a program created in 2016 to partner with the Arlington Food Assistance Center (AFAC) to provide enriching creative play for the children of families experiencing food insecurity in Arlington. Read on to find out– from those closest to the program — just what makes HPI so special.
Mara Stewart, Teaching Artist:“HPI is one of my favorite classes to teach. I feel like I always leave with a smile and a new experience. It has taught me so much about communication. Even when we can’t speak the same language, we are able to create a positive experience and learn from one and another. For most of the kids, this is their first time in a classroom setting. Healthy play focuses on engaging and dynamic activities. We sing, we dance, we color, we play outside, and we learn about healthy food choices. We focus on transitioning from one activity to the next, sharing and expressing ourselves. This program helps us meet kids in the community that we otherwise might not ever get to know. It is an amazing experience to see these children week after week and watch them grow. The first day we meet a child, they often don’t participate or speak- and after a few weeks they blossom. They are engaged, singing, and are excited to come to HPI, and to me–that is the best part.”
Caolan Eder, Arts Apprentice:“To me, HPI is all about community. The children who participate get a chance to play together in a safe setting and make new friends, learning to cooperate in a group as they prepare for the structured environment of school. The program also helps with communication skills. Many of the children live in non-English-speaking homes and struggle to connect with people outside of their families, so finding new ways of interacting really expands their worlds. I remember well how one child’s whole face lit up when she and I discovered that we spoke a common language and could explain ourselves to each other. The parents and caregivers build community through HPI, as well. In addition to giving them a breather from the responsibilities that come with raising a family, the program allows adults to form a network of people with shared experiences.”
Madaline Langston, Education Programs Manager:“HPI has made me more patient. Most of the children that I have had the pleasure of serving are learning English and are trying to do their very best. In the classroom, we focus on listening, focus, and engaging students’ motor skills. HPI is a way to provide social interaction with peers. They learn how to make friends. When I first meet most of our HPI participants, I’ve noticed that they usually only interact with their families or friends. I recall one young boy who had just arrived from Peru and did not speak English. I used my cell phone to translate Spanish to him and he smiled and then slowly pronounced Spanish words to me and I spoke to him in English. So cute and funny at the same time. From that point on, he came to the classes with a smile on his face.”
Alana Gibson, Arts Apprentice:“ I’ve become more attentive to the children as people and not just children who are unaware of their surroundings and circumstances. HPI is such a meaningful program because, for the most part, this is the only exposure to English speakers that the children get if they don’t go to classes. It’s also meaningful to Encore because it makes us more culturally aware and understanding, which helps us standout in the region and theater community. A few weeks ago, at the Arlington Mill location, we had a pair of siblings that came in because they didn’t have school. Mara, the lead teacher, told me that just a year ago, these siblings spoke almost no English. I was completely shocked because if she hadn’t told me that, I would have never known. So I’m sure that them coming to the program in combination with their language class helped with this amazing feat! In the classroom, I try to focus on being caring, but also keeping some structure. Most of the children are in the house all week with a parent so I want them to have a chance to run around, but I also want to start to help them get the understanding of how a classroom would work at a real preschool. I’m hopeful that HPI plays a real role in preparing these kids for school as they grow older.”
It’s through the generous support of our donors that we are able to bring programs like “the Healthy Play Initiative” to our community here in Arlington. We believe that this type of outreach and engagement is essential for our mission of bringing “Theatre by kids, for kids” to all types of children and families. The empathy, problem solving, and creativity born in the classroom extends far beyond remaining active in the arts–the skills gained through theatre education can last a lifetime.
“This is the story of how I got out of a hole.”
This is the opening line of an incredible story written and illustrated by Erminia, a young immigrant from El Salvador. At fifteen, Erminia’s mother gave her a stark choice: stay with the family but endure a life of poverty, violence, and a bleak future, or embark on a dangerous journey alone to America in pursuit of a good education and a better life.
Despite her love for her family, Erminia decided her only choice was to leave El Salvador so she could further her education. She spent five days in a detention center in Mexico but persisted. She walked for three days and two nights across the desert– in her socks, with one small bottle of water. After several weeks, she managed to cross the Rio Grande and find her way to the United States.
As Erminia explains, “I want people to understand that we are here because we are fighting for education, for opportunity. We are not criminals. In reality, I’m here fighting for my dreams.”
When Erminia asked her immigration lawyer what she could do to compensate for her services, the lawyer answered with a challenge: become a lawyer herself. Erminia has taken this to heart and is currently a freshman in college, studying to become an immigration lawyer so she can help others find their way out of their own “holes.”
I met Erminia a few weeks ago at our launch event for Voces sin Fronteras (Voices without Borders) — a remarkable book written and illustrated in graphic novel form by sixteen teenage immigrants from Latin America. Proceeds from the book sales support a scholarship fund for Latino youth immigrants.
Amidst today’s highly charged debate on immigration, this book provides a rare chance to hear directly from youth who are often in the headlines but whose stories aren’t told in full. This collaboration between young people from the Latin American Youth Center (LAYC) in Washington, D.C. and Shout Mouse Press, a nonprofit writing program and publishing house dedicated to amplifying unheard voices, has produced a powerful collection of stories about family, loss, ambition, and change that provide a much-needed human connection to the immigration crisis. These moving personal accounts challenge us and inspire greater empathy for the individuals who leave everything behind for an education.
As Erminia, Rosa, and Sebastian — three of these courageous authors — shared their stories in the back corner of a DC bookstore, my eyes welled up with tears more than once as I listened to the hardships and heartache they endured in search of a better life in this country.
Their quest for a better life that hinged upon the opportunity for a quality education has borne fruit. Erminia, Rosa, and Sebastian are all currently enrolled in college, pursuing their dreams of becoming a lawyer, a doctor, and a graphic designer.
I am the daughter of Chinese immigrants. My father left Taiwan with a few dollars in his pocket and journeyed in a cramped freighter for 52 days to further his education in America. His story is not uncommon, as the desire to educate children for a brighter future is universal. Immigrants from all corners of the globe uproot their lives and leave everything behind with this simple goal in mind.
As former UK Prime Minister and Education Commission Chair Gordon Brown has said: “Potential is best developed, talents best unleashed, and dreams best fulfilled at the point a child and teacher are brought together. Most of all, it is education — our ability to plan and prepare for the future — that gives us hope.”
Providing this hope to the world’s children should not require the sacrifices that Erminia and countless others have made. What my own children take for granted — a free, quality education — should not be a matter of life or death for so many others.
Today, more than 260 million children are not in school. If the world does not wake up to this tragedy, by 2030, half of the world’s young people — 825 million — will be unprepared for the workplace of the future. We must recognize the full human and economic costs of an uneducated populace, and find the will in developing and donor countries alike to prioritize and increase the funding of education.
Children should not have to choose between their families and an education. They should not have to risk their lives and walk across the desert without shoes to get a place in a decent school. The world must recognize education as a human right, a civil right, and an economic imperative — and act accordingly.
The hopes and dreams sparked by educating hungry young minds know no bounds. As Rosa, the young immigrant from Guatemala studying to be a doctor, writes:
“No matter where you start from, those who dream of the impossible can achieve the unthinkable.”
Lana Wong is the Community Impact and Partnerships Director at Shout Mouse Press.
In a place like Washington DC, when people think of power and politics, they think of the President, Congress, CEOs, or lobbying chiefs, but Mikva Challenge DC is on a mission to reshape that perception. Mikva DC exists to enhance the expertise and power of young people to create change, and to inform both local and national policy making. Modeled after the successful civic engagement programming developed for youth in Chicago, Mikva Challenge DC develops youth to be empowered, informed, and active citizens who will promote a just and equitable society.
One way Mikva DC students ‘do civics’ is by speaking out on how to address issues in their communities via an annual citywide speech competition called Project Soapbox. This past December, students took to the stage to speak about a range of deeply important topics, like mental health support, LGBTQ discrimination, racism & xenophobia, food deserts, and homelessness.
One of this year’s competition winners, Nehemiah Jackson, enthralled the room when he proclaimed from his soapbox:
“When I grow up, I want to put an end to this nonsense. I believe that police officers need a punishment for brutality. My solution is for police to have better training on how to deal with the public. Better and longer training would help police understand that people might have mental illnesses or might be nervous when stopped by police. During training police learn state laws, criminal investigations, patrol procedures, firearms training, traffic control, defensive driving, self defense, first aid, and computer skills. But something they don’t learn is how to help people with mental illnesses. Something they don’t learn is how to deal with scared citizens, something they don’t learn is how to handle their own anger. Also, how about we can create non-deadly weapons that don’t kill. It seems to me if you can send Rovers to Mars, have cars that drive themselves, then why can’t we make weapons that don’t kill?”
After experiencing a day of these incredible speeches, one student remarked: “I am not done in this fight. There are others struggling like I am and our challenges united us. I feel inspired seeing my peers use their stories and identities to fight for change.”
It was not just students and the Mikva DC staff who felt the power in the room. As Jenny Abamu of our local NPR station, WAMU, said: “Though there is only one winner, students didn’t treat the event like a contest. They encouraged each other – judges listened and responded to some impassioned performances by noting resources for students dealing with crises. Many students said they wanted to raise awareness. In this way, they were already winners.”
Mikva Challenge DC’s credo is that young people who do civics will help make the nation become its very best democratic self. And who can argue against that when you hear, see, and experience the vision and power of DC youth for yourself?
Center for Inspired Teaching is proud to be recognized by the Catalogue for Philanthropy as one of the best local nonprofits in the DC area. At Inspired Teaching, we envision a future in which every person is prepared to thrive in and contribute to our ever-changing world. Our mission is to transform the preK-12 school system by cultivating and partnering with change-making educators who authentically engage their students as active learners and empathetic critical thinkers. As we begin 2019, all of us at Inspired Teaching are deeply appreciative of the educators and students who made 2018 a joyful and meaningful year of learning. We are proud to share some of our favorite highlights from the last twelve months as we reflect on the moments that inspired us:
Inspired Teaching Youth Lead Dialogues on Social Issues at Speak Truth
Inspired Teaching Youth kicked off 2018 with an International Night of Dialogue via Speak Truth, a program which brings students across the District together to engage in discussions meant to expose one another to new perspectives. High school students spent the year enthusiastically leading and participating in discussions around a variety of social justice topics, like: gun violence, toxic masculinity, the Brett Kavanaugh hearings, Colin Kaepernick and the Nike boycott, and many others. One student remarked, “I’ve talked about issues like this before, but went deeper than conversations in the past.” Inspired Teaching Fellows Create Engaging Learning Opportunities
Over the summer, the 2017 Fellows created interactive educational experiences for students at Capital City Public Charter School. These experiences culminated in a learning showcase where students proudly shared their STEM projects: from exploring ways that humans can lessen or reverse the effects of climate change to creating inventions inspired by animal adaptations, students connected their learning to their own lives in meaningful and fun ways. After finishing the summer on a high note, the Inspired Teachers embarked on another exciting journey – beginning their first years as teachers of record at 13 schools throughout the District.
Inspired Teaching Alumni Influence the Broader Education Landscape
2018 has also been an exciting year for Inspired Teaching alumni who have received recognition on the local and national levels. 2014 Inspired Teacher Leader Paul Howard was selected by OSSE as the 2018 DC Teacher of the Year. In addition, several Inspired Teachers were featured as presenters at conferences led by Education Week, EmpowerED DC, and EL Education. During the EmpowerED Teacher Voice Summit, Inspired Teacher James Tandaric (’16) spoke during the keynote about a moment that fueled his passion for advocacy:”Recently, I was talking to another teacher about how DC’s wards are very racially segregated, and he said that he hadn’t known that was an issue. This was shocking to me. As a person of color, and as a person who has worked in a variety of school settings, including Ward 8, I wondered, how can he not see this? The discussion made me more determined to help all teachers be more aware of these racial divides.”
Inspired Teaching Staff Travel the Globe to Share Engagement-Based Education Practices
In 2018, Inspired Teaching leaders have traveled internationally to spread Inspired Teaching’s message far and wide. Our travels have included leading a teacher training in Chiang Mai, Thailand, contributing to an education thought leadership summit in Oxford, England, and participating in a gathering of educational change-makers in Lyon, France. The launch of the National Alliance for Engagement-Based Education has also prompted Inspired Teaching to travel the country exploring engagement-based teaching & learning practices. Staff had the opportunity to observe classes in several different schools across the nation, discovering effective strategies for building strong school communities.
2019 and Beyond
We look forward to seeing all that our staff, students, and Inspired Teachers will accomplish next year. We are especially appreciative of supporters who help our efforts to transform education.
Last month, After-School All-Stars, Washington DC (ASAS DC) hosted a field trip to Marriott HQ in Bethesda, MD for a “top chef” competition. This activity was the culmination of work that students engaged in all semester in their ASAS DC cooking classes. Thirteen students from three schools – Stuart-Hobson Middle School, Leckie Education Campus, and Charles Hart Middle School – participated in the competition and they expressed a combination of excitement and confidence leading up to the event. The group from Hart, in particular, remarked that they wanted to do a great job to “represent well for Hart and Southeast” – and that they had faith in their ability to win.
The students and their ASAS DC instructors arrived at the Bethesda office and immediately went down to the kitchen area. They were greeted by various Marriott staff and Chef Brad Nelson, VP Global Operations in Marriott International?s Culinary division. Brad facilitated the event and provided instructions to the students. He spoke about his connection to cooking and why it is important for young people to learn it as a necessary skill. And he laid out the rules for the competition: students would have 45 minutes to create two plates for judging, using only the ingredients presented to them by Marriott. Brad and his colleagues also revealed 2 “secret” ingredients: boneless chicken breast and cauliflower. He urged the students in their preparation to “think about flavor, being creative, and what you would like to eat yourself.” Brad eloquently explained that to him “food is about family, hospitality, and sharing” and that was the backdrop for the competition that followed.
Once the rules were explained, students split up into 6 teams and promptly filled their trays with ingredients. With support from Marriott culinary professionals, teams started to create their dishes and delicious aromas filled the room. They were involved in every stage of the preparation from the planning, cutting/preparing, seasoning, and ultimately the baking or sauteing. While they all had to use the same ingredients, there was a broad range of final dishes presented?- from Cesar Salad, to pan fried chicken with sauted vegetables, and array of different sauces and spices. Mariame, a 6th grader from Leckie had a revelation after tasting her final product:”it’s DELICIOUS! It finally has real flavor!”
ASAS DC board member Jessica Flugge (also a VP within the company) supported the production of the event and worked side by side with several student teams. Along with Jessica, two Marriott senior staff members visited the group as they presented their final dishes. They acted as top chef judges and sampled each plate, meticulously going through every nuance of each dish. They did this in a private setting while students completed one of the most essential culinary practices: cleaning up after themselves! The staff had high praise for all the dishes, describing them as “eloquent” and “well presented”. One judge frequently remarked that she did not like vegetables, but the students had “made a convert out of her.”
Ultimately the top 3 teams were selected by the judges and chef Brad, based on a combination of presentation, creativity, and overall taste. One of the teams from Stuart-Hobson came in 3rd place, another pair from Leckie was given the 2nd place award, and two young ladies from Hart Middle School took home the 1st place trophy. These accolades will go back to their respective schools to be displayed. In the end, as one of the judges noted, all of the students here were winners,” and each participant was given a culinary-themed parting gift courtesy of ASAS DC: chef aprons and hats, two cookbooks, and a slate of cooking utensils to help them create their own meals in the future!
As a non-profit that provides free after-school programs to low-income DC middle schools, we place a high value on life-skills, teamwork, and career exploration. All three of those important principles were brought to bear at Marriott, and we have their dedicated professionals and our students to thank for that! Students left in extremely high spirits, excited at the possibility of participating in this competition next semester. Our staff reported that the bus transporting students from Hart sang the entire ride home, a fitting conclusion to a successful field trip!
Educational Theatre Company (ETC) invites the community to its 20th birthday fundraiser to celebrate 20 years as a vital part of the Arlington Arts community. Since its founding in 1998, ETC has been committed to the mission of unlocking the potential of children and adults, ages 3 – 103, through immersion in theatre arts. ETC places a focus on student written, process-driven work with programs that foster creativity, teach collaboration and community, and give students a sense of confidence in their own story.
Community members are invited to attend ETC‘s birthday party fundraiser on Saturday, November 17. This fundraiser, featuring live performances, music, refreshments, and a silent auction will allow ETC to continue its long tradition of bringing theatre arts to underserved members of the community, ensuring location and economic status are not barriers to participation. The birthday party is from 2:00 – 5:00 pm, in the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) building at 4301 Wilson Blvd. Tickets are $10 per child, $20 per adult, and $40 for a family, and are available at www.educationaltheatrecompany.org.
Community members are also invited to see ETC in action by attending the original musical Two Ways to Count to Ten, the McKinley Elementary Main Stage Residency production. Under the guidance of ETC‘s teaching artists, 2nd through 5th-grade students develop an original script and lyrics, create their costumes, set, and props. This will be the 30th McKinley Main Stage show, continuing the longest running arts partnership with Arlington Public Schools. The free performances are Thursday, November 15 and Friday, November 16 at 7:00 pm at McKinley Elementary School, 1030 North McKinley Road, in Arlington.
Just over ten years ago, the family of Rkia Bellout, a woman from the Kenitra region of Morocco, sold its ancestral land. While the men in her family reaped the profits, she did not receive any compensation. Rkia is a member of the rural Soulilyate minority in Morocco, and like other women in this group, she had no rights to her land.?
Rkia decided to take action and sought the counsel of Moroccan women’s organizations to help her claim her right to participate in decisions over land ownership. When she brought her complaint to an NGO called ADFM (l’Association D’mocratique des Femmes du Maroc), the organization helped mobilize a national grassroots movement of Soulaliyate women calling for equality in land ownership. For over 10 years, ADFM has been building the leadership skills of rural minority women to advocate and participate in political processes for this cause.
ADFM is a member of Women’s Learning Partnership (WLP), a coalition of autonomous women’s rights organizations located throughout the developing world that promote women’s leadership and human rights. WLP organizations promote gender equality through training programs, advocacy campaigns, and capacity building. Since 2000, WLP partners like ADFM have been empowering women and girls to make change in their communities. (Click here to read more about WLP’s global impact on its Catalogue for Philanthropy profile.)
ADFM’s advocacy for Soulaliyate women’s rights pressured Morocco’s Ministry of the Interior to pass a specific law guaranteeing equality between men and women in communal land ownership and transactions. The Ministry reacted to the pressure, but not nearly as decisively as ADFM demanded. The government issued a series of non-binding ministerial guidelines called “circulars” that merely paid lip-service to the Soulaliyate movement. The latest one, Circular 17, recognized Soulaliyates’ right to land ownership in theory, but not in practice.
Then, to mark the 10-year anniversary of the Soulaliyate movement, ADFM organized its greatest advocacy push to date: a three-week “Caravan of Soulaliyates.” From October 24 to December 15, 2017, the caravan mobilized 660 Soulaliyate women and allies who traveled to three regions: Fez, Daraa-Tafilalt, and Rabat-Sale. The caravan met with policymakers and raised the voices of Soulaliyate women.
ADFM also held 10 leadership workshops during the caravan, with an average of 50 women attending each one. They used WLP‘s manual on inclusive leadership, Leading to Choices, which has been the cornerstone of ADFM’s capacity building work with the Soulaliyate communities since the movement’s inception in 2007. The leadership methodology in the manual empowers Soulaliyates to participate effectively in decision-making processes in their tribes.
Three to four Soulaliyate movement-leaders from different regions shared their advocacy experiences at each stage of the caravan. This dialogue between Soulaliyates from remote corners of the country fostered camaraderie. Even though 465 kilometers and the Atlas Mountains separate the coastal city of Kenitra and the Algerian border-town of Errachildia, women from these two areas discovered that they have shared experiences and are working towards a common goal. The caravan’s mobility strengthened the bonds of solidarity among Soulaliyates across the country.?
ADFM President Saida Drissi Amrani emphasized those bonds, “We have met women who, even if they do not know how to read or write, are very aware of the principle of equality,”?Amrani told HuffPost Maroc. “They denounce contempt and they are ready to fight. We will support them until the end.”
In July 2018, their campaign resulted in a major victory — for the first time, Soulaliyate women of the Ben Mansour and Ouled Mbarek tribes in the Kenitra province were awarded financial compensations and land transfers. While ADFM and WLP celebrate this success, they continue to campaign and fight for equal land rights for women throughout Morocco.