Wound up on cheers and chants, a gym filled with children shook the sleep from their eyes early Tuesday at Freedom School, a five-week academy in Tulsa focused on literacy and black culture.
"This is about teaching kids how to love reading. It's not about teaching them how to read," said Jessica Criswell, one of the student interns leading the school. "It's also about cultural empowerment."
Children's Defense Fund Freedom Schools are taking place in more than 40 cities around the nation this summer. The program is a first for Tulsa, where it is sponsored locally by the Greenwood Community Development Corp.
"It's not regular school," said Kortnie Napier, a college student at Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Mo., and a Freedom School staff member. "We're trying to put a twist to it."
And twist they do. The animated, college-age staff greets the kids as they arrive in the morning with whooping, dancing and a human tunnel.
After a quick breakfast the kids gather in the gym for a boisterous rally called "Harambee," which is a Swahili word meaning "let's pull together."
They shout songs with self-motivating refrains like "something inside so
strong" and play call-and-response oratory games.
A book is read aloud and a few kids volunteer to act out the characters in front of the group.
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