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Light creates understanding: Undoing racism at the Tyree Scott Freedom School

Acting in Faith  |  By Madeline Schaefer, Jan 24, 2014

Two participants of the Tyree Scott Freedom School, talking during a break.

Photo: AFSC

Seattle area high school students gathered over the winter holidays for a Tyree Scott Freedom School, an AFSC program in Seattle, to learn about the history and structures of racism in the United States.

Madeline Schaefer, the Friends Relations Associate, went to visit that Freedom School, and witnessed a grassroots movement for social change built on the passion of a diverse network of young people in the Seattle region.

Listen to the voices of some of the young men and women who attended the workshop, and hear how they are using their new understanding to undo racist structures in American society.

Read Madeline's companion piece, a blog post about the experience of participating in the Freedom School: A hollow power: Reclaiming our humanity by letting go.

Produced by Madeline Schaefer. To listen to more audio stories, subscribe to the podcast through iTunes so you don't miss future episodes.  Also be sure to check out the audio series "Calling forth the goodness" about the roots of AFSC's work around the country at the Calling forth the Goodness podcast page.

Transcript (excerpt)

Madeline: On a Friday morning during the middle of the winter holidays, I arrived at the Bethany Unitarian Church on Beacon Hill in Seattle to a room full of buzzing, friendly High School students.  They were there to attend a 2 day workshop to learn about the history of race and racism in America in what are known as the Tyree Scott Freedom School, part of the Seattle program of the American Friends Service Committee.

I was greeted by two warm young women sitting by the registration desk, one of whom was latina and one of whom was a young African American woman named Nina.  She has been attending these Freedom Schools for several years now. 

Nina:  I feel like it's very powerful information and it's stuff I want to do with my life because I feel like everyone's put on this earth for a reason and I feel like my reason is to stop inequality and to fight racism.

Madeline:  Freedom Schools both teach and inspire young people to action by delving into deep, important issues that young people are hungry to learn.  Nina’s passion for racial justice reflects the passion that I was to experience in many of the participants that weekend. 

Sounds of Dustin Washington facilitating a workshop activity.

The workshops usually range between 2 and 10 days, during which time the program facilitators use interactive exercises to uncover both the structures and the mindsets of scarcity and fear that are at the root of the racist and unequal systems in this country.  


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About Friends Relations

Lucy Duncan works with other AFSC staff to foster strong relationships between AFSC and Quakers.

Lucy is AFSC’s Director of Friends Relations. She has been a storyteller for 20 years and has worked with Quaker meetings on telling stories for racial justice and of spiritual experience. She attends Green Street Friends Meeting (PhYM) and lives with her son and partner in a Quaker cemetery.

Christina is the Friends Relations Fellow this year who works closely with Lucy. She was born and raised in London, England and has a background in copywriting. Christina currently lives in the Wissahickon section of Philadelphia.