The world of education can feel predictable, as each school year cycles through a calendar of events that play out in traditional ways.
A few months ago, Donovan Livingston became an internet celebrity when he decided one of those annual events, the Harvard Graduate School of Education commencement address, could be done in a different way. I was among more than 13 million people who watched his spoken poem “Lift Off,” and like many of them I was so impressed I shared it on social media.
Livingston, who is now a doctoral candidate at UNC Greensboro, mixed energetic inspiration with challenges to the status quo, saying that “for some, the only difference between a classroom and a plantation is time” and describing how as a student he was labeled disruptive, talkative and a distraction.
“I stand here, a manifestation of love and pain with veins pumping revolution. I am the strange fruit that grew too ripe for the poplar tree,” he said, before finally concluding that “together, we can inspire galaxies of greatness for generations to come.”
So I was excited when Observer Publisher Ann Caulkins told me Charlotte Will and Wake Forest University were bringing Livingston to Charlotte and wanted me to moderate a panel discussion. He’ll speak at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center, and tickets are still available.
I expect Livingston to provoke and inspire us all to think about education in new ways. We’ll be joined by Olympic Renaissance High academy coordinator Reginald Harris, who’s doing innovative things with truancy prevention and career preparation, and North Mecklenburg High School student Jelissa Hernandez.
We won’t solve all the challenges facing education, but I hope this will be a chance to spark passion and ideas. The panel will include a chance for the audience to ask questions.
As we head into another crazy year in public education, with changes brewing at the local, state and national level, we could all use a little inspiration. I hope to see you there.