Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Frederick Douglas Writing Club for Young Boys

The first day of class started with a field trip to the Frederick Douglas House.

What must it be like to be taught by someone who gets it? Someone who understands your need to bang on the table, so ample time is left in the morning for a jam session on the drums before class starts.  Someone who understands your need to squirm, fidget and move around, so there are desks and chairs, but if you want to lie down on the floor, it's all good.  Someone who invites you back to class with welcome arms even though you have a very, very bad day on the first day.  Well, I can imagine it feels pretty darn good!

LionHeart enjoys a morning jam session in the studio where classes are held.

Under ordinary circumstances I would never have signed up my right-brain learner for a writing class.  But educator and artist extraordinaire Bomani Armah assured me that this was not your typical writing class. A father of twin boys, just as exuberant as mine, he promised that LionHeart would be challenged, engaged and successful.  He was absolutely right!  The Frederick Douglas Writing Club was awesome!
Class time with Baba Bomani.

I was nervous about an all day (9-4pm) writing class for my easily distracted LionHeart.  The class description sounded pretty left-brain: writing and communication, with an emphasis on the life and writing of Frederick Douglass (concentrating on abolition and the Civil War), speech writing, public speaking, autobiographical writing and journalism.  But when I learned that class would also involve activities like Hip Hop writing with rhyming trees and learning the parts of speech through Flocabulary videos ... well, I knew everything was going to be alright.

LionHeart recording and reporting at Harper's Ferry

Bomani understands that boys need to move, create and, most of all, need to be inspired!  Heck, all writers need to be inspired to write.  The first class started out with a bang and the field trips and activities kept getting better.  One field trip the boys traveled to Harper's Ferry to visit the place of John Brown's Raid.  They were tasked with being young reporters. Historians say Frederick Douglas declined Brown's invitation to join him in the raid because he thought it would be unsuccessful.

 I asked LionHeart why he photographed this collage at Harper's Ferry? He told me that he liked it because it showed John Brown as he aged from a young man to an elderly man.

For a group of boys, I'm sure a 2,000 pound canon was hard to resist.  I am told this was one of the many canons that the Confederate army pulled through the river and ravine to place their for the battle.

This view from Harper's Ferry was particularly fascinating to LionHeart because he tells me you can see Maryland, DC and Virginia from this vantage point.

Checking out an exhibit at the Newseum
Another field trip was to the Newseum,  which was a precursor to their in depth study of the parts of a newspaper.  In today's digital age, reading a real newspaper is just as rare as learning cursive handwriting.  I'm glad these young men are being exposed to how news was reported before Facebook and Instagram!

 Equally as important as the lesson was always the metro ride.  Yes, their teacher braved the city metro with a group of boys.  There's so much to learn, coming and going.  I am so grateful that LionHeart was a part of this pilot program.  The layers of learning, growing and building with each other was absolutely amazing.  This is how education should be - personal and meaningful.  Class ended with a bang, a SERIOUS bang.  Throughout the course the young men worked on their rhymes and writing.  The apex was the Frederick Douglas Writing Club Theme Song and Video.  Check it out below!
If you want to be free, if you want to be great,
Frederick Douglass said the key is you have to agitate,
So we learn to write and read and how to debate
F-D-W-C 1838!


  1. Gosh that sounds fun and right up my alley for my Speed Racer! Wish we lived closer to DC.

  2. My 8 year is sad that we didn't know about this group. He really enjoyed their video. Way to go young sirs!!