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Donovan Livingston: Tell kids the truth, then inspire them

Poetry, racism and hope with Donovan Livingston

Internet celebrity educator Donovan Livingston spoke to an audience at the Booth Playhouse about his poetry, racism and hope on Thursday evening.
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Internet celebrity educator Donovan Livingston spoke to an audience at the Booth Playhouse about his poetry, racism and hope on Thursday evening.

Internet celebrity educator Donovan Livingston told a Charlotte audience Thursday night that fatal police shootings of African-Americans such as Keith Lamont Scott show history is repeating itself when it comes to the treatment of minorities.

“Things of the past are repeating in the present, and the past and the present aren’t that different,” Livingston told the crowd at the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center in uptown.

Livingston captivated millions when his 2016 Harvard School of Education address, the poetic “Lift Off,” went viral. On Thursday, Charlotte Will and Wake Forest University invited him to the Booth Playhouse to share his ideas on how education can inspire children to dream, lift their voices and realize their potential.

Livingston drew laughter at times with his self-deprecating humor about his childhood and the trouble he gave teachers.

But his message was serious about how educators must be truthful with their students about obstacles they will inevitably face, even if they succeed in the classroom and make it to and beyond college.

For “marginalized members of history,” he said, school can be a place “where we can express ourselves and find values.”

He urged the audience to leave with a copy of the “Youth Activist’s Toolkit,” a list of 198 methods of nonviolent action.

After his address, Livingston joined a panel moderated by Ann Doss Helms, education reporter for The Charlotte Observer, and featuring Jelissa Hernandez, a North Mecklenburg High School student, and Reggie Harris, a teacher and Career Academy Coordinator at Olympic High School.

During the discussion, Donovan said students should be rewarded for creativity, not just test scores. He urged educators to “take the time to take an interest in what the student is interested in.” Students like responsibility and being taken seriously, he said. “You’ll be surprised how they rise to that.”

His message in the end was one of hope and inspiration, encouraging teachers and others to help students find and pursue their dreams.

Joe Marusak: 704-358-5067, @jmarusak

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