It's a Party

Five different perspectives on Detroit schools — none of which you will hear on the news

Clockwise from top left: Satori Shakoor, Imani Harris, Brittany Rogers, Asenath Andrews, Chastity Pratt Dawsey and Erin Einhorn.

Teacher Brittany Rogers tells the story of resisting pressure from her family to leave the Detroit Public Schools for a job in the suburbs — until she experiences her lowest moment.

Asenath Andrews recalls the day, 32 years ago, when she found herself suddenly faced with the challenge of educating teen moms and pregnant girls.

And Imani Harris describes what it’s like to go to school every day, worried about her personal safety.

They are three of the five storytellers who will take the stage Friday night at the Charles H. Wright Museum for the School Days storytelling event hosted by Chalkbeat and the Secret Society of Twisted Storytellers.

“Storytelling is a very powerful artform,” said Satori Shakoor, who is the creator, curator, producer and host of the Secret Society, which holds a monthly storytelling event at the Wright.

The audience on Friday will come away “with five different perspectives on Detroit schools — none of which you will hear on the news,” Shakoor said. “You’ll hear part of it on the news. You’ll hear the sound-bitey stuff but … (these stories) will challenge the stories that are proliferated out there. … You’re going to learn something.”

Chalkbeat is hosting the event as part of its official launch in Detroit. Teachers, parents and school leaders have been invited in hopes that stories told on stage will spark conversations that will lead to needed school improvement.

“I hope that by the end of the evening, everyone will feel a call to action,” Shakoor said.

In addition to Rogers, Andrews and Harris, two education reporters will take the stage: Chastity Pratt Dawsey, a graduate of the Detroit Public Schools who now writes about education and other issues for Bridge Magazine, and Erin Einhorn, Chalkbeat’s Senior Detroit correspondent who is now navigating the Detroit schools for her own children.

Tickets are still available here for $20 in advance or $25 at the door. Book them online.

Story booth

A Detroit student speaks: ‘DPS has expanded my horizon for me to see a whole new world.’

KrisTia Maxwell is a student at Detroit's Marcus Garvey Academy

When KrisTia Maxwell started in the Detroit Public Schools as a 5-year-old kindergartener, she was nervous and shy and “didn’t know what was going to happen to me.”

Now, eight years later, she’s in middle school at Detroit’s Marcus Garvey Academy and says Detroit public schools (now called the Detroit Public Schools Community District) have helped make her the active, successful student she’s become.

“DPS has expanded my horizon for me to see a whole new world,” she said.

Her years at Marcus Garvey have included involvement in the National Junior Honor Society, the Girl Scouts, and the cheer team and basketball teams, among other activities.

The school “has improved me in all sorts of subjects and … given me opportunities to express myself and be who I am,” she said.

KrisTia told her Detroit schools story in a story booth outside the School Days storytelling event that was hosted in March by Chalkbeat and the Secret Society of Twisted Storytellers at the Charles H. Wright Museum.

The event brought educators, parents and students together to tell their stories on stage at the Wright but it also invited other Detroiters to share their stories in a booth set up by Chalkbeat and the Skillman Foundation. (Skillman also supports Chalkbeat. Learn more about our funding here.)

In her story, KrisTia said her school “is half of me. It’s an important part and I’m going to attempt to do whatever I can to accomplish getting my 4.0 GPA and just doing great and … making my mom proud.”

If you have a story to tell — or know someone who does — please let us know.

Watch KrisTia’s full story below:

KrisTia Maxwell from Chalkbeat on Vimeo.

Story booth

A Detroit teacher speaks: The tragic reason why her students don’t always do their homework or come to class on time

Detroit teacher Janine Scott explains what people' don't understand about her students.

When Janine Scott tells people that she teaches in Detroit, she often gets looks of pity.

“You poor thing!” she said people tell her as they make negative comments about the children she works with.

But those people don’t understand her students, she said.

“I ask [my students] things like why are you late, or why didn’t you do your homework or what happened or why didn’t you even come to school?” Scott said.

“And then I’ll get something like well, Miss Scott, I had to get my little brothers and sisters up, and had to feed them and and comb their hair and get them ready for school, had to wait on their bus with them. And my kids will come in third hour. Or they’ll tell me about the drama that happened last night or they’ll tell me about their friend that died in their arms the night before.”

Scott told her story of teaching in the Detroit schools in a story booth outside the School Days storytelling event.

The event, cosponsored by Chalkbeat and the Secret Society of Twisted Storytellers, was held at the Charles H. Wright Museum last month and featured Detroit parents, educators, and a student telling stories on stage about schools in Detroit.

But the stories on stage were just a start. Chalkbeat is looking to tell many more stories about Detroit parents, students and teachers. The story booth set up by Chalkbeat and the Skillman Foundation in the lobby of the Wright Museum ahead of our event was one way to do this. (Skillman also supports Chalkbeat. Learn more about our funding here.)

When Scott came into the booth, she talked about things her students must endure to get to school at all.  

“All of a sudden that little mediocre C that they get in my class becomes a great grade because in order for them to even navigate through that environment and get to school and learn something, that’s an amazing thing,” Scott said. “See a lot of people don’t even make it that far but my kids do.”

Watch Scott’s story below and if you have a story to tell about Detroit schools — or know someone who does — please let us know.