Village of Wisdom to Receive June Justice Sunday Collection

The UUFR Social Justice Council has chosen Village of Wisdom (VOW) as the recipient of the June 2020 Justice Sunday Collection. The selection was made on the recommendation of UUFR’s Anti-Racism Ministry (ARM) team. The June Justice Sunday Collection will take place at UUFR’s June 14 service.

Based in Durham, VOW’s mission is to “close the academic opportunity gap by protecting the intellectual curiosity and positive racial self-concept of Black children through the love and wisdom of their families and communities.” It was founded in 2014 by Dr. Will Jackson, a former high school science teacher and Ph.D graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill.

Lee Tate, co-chair of UUFR’s ARM team, who met Jackson on a Witness for Peace trip to Cuba in 2018, was impressed. “Most importantly he gave me hope that young talented African Americans have not abandoned their communities but have doubled down and are leaning into the possibilities of making our youth thrive,” Tate said of Jackson.

VOW, which has four areas of activity—Organizing and Advocacy, Research and Creating Tools, Consulting and Evaluation, and Promoting the Black Genius Brand—utilizes the wisdom and experiences of Black parents and students to turn U.S. schools into supportive places for Black learning. Its Black Genius self-assessment tool gives parents and students the opportunity to explore in depth the student’s interests, strengths, challenges and racial identity. This information is then shared with the student’s teachers and included in classroom lessons.

In January 2020, Jackson told a Forbes magazine interviewer: “What we are doing at Village of Wisdom is developing new tools, measures, and communication processes that allow kids and families to communicate all the strengths and knowledge that a student is bringing to the classroom to educators.”

Jackson continued: “…the problem is not within Black children, it’s within a system that’s disproportionately suspending them, disproportionately not recommending them…disproportionately not looking after them…. A child can’t fix this, a child can’t say ‘put me in an AP course.’ The teachers, assistant principals, counselors are making those decisions and they’re often deciding based on the kid’s skin color.”

Nearly 80 percent of teachers in America are white, while about 40 percent of K-12 students are people of color, about 20 percent of them Black. While correcting that mismatch is a long-term goal, VOW currently focuses on organizing and developing tools and processes to incorporate Black students’ prior knowledge into their learning.

By Lynda Hambourger