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.

nota bene

Meet Bene Cipolla, who’s inaugurating a new Chalkbeat chapter as our first-ever executive editor

Bene Cipolla joined Chalkbeat today as our new executive editor. Photo by Yan Ruan.

Today the Chalkbeat team expanded one more time: We welcomed our first-ever executive editor, Bene Cipolla.

Executive editor is a position we were once too small to need, but now find ourselves too big to live without. And we’ve found the perfect person for the role in Bene, an experienced reporter, editor, team builder, and digital leader who cares as much about education and great journalism as we do.

Bene will lead our amazing team of editors and reporters, now in five locations, not to mention our new national team.

Her charge is to make sure Chalkbeat remains sharp, smart, and connected to the realities in schools. We are also asking Bene to help us get better. We want to cover a wider territory, take on more ambitious projects, and share more stories that haven’t yet been told. 

With experience editing at major magazines, writing and reporting for the world’s best newspapers, and leading editorial teams at fast-growing digital startups, Bene is the perfect person to push Chalkbeat forward.

Mandatory moment of nostalgia: We started this Chalkbeat adventure in 2008 with a few dozen readers sprinkled between two cities. Today we are one of the country’s largest and fastest-growing nonprofit news operations, providing public-interest coverage in local communities where the news outlets that used to do that job have been gutted.

We take our responsibility seriously, and we know we have much more to do to keep this kind of journalism strong. We also know we can only succeed if we have the best possible team — of readers, of supporters, and of staff.

Bene is just the newest member of an amazing community that leaves us in awe every day.

Get to know her through this recent piece in the New York Times, which is personal and fascinating; this authoritative curtain-raiser on the 2008 U.S. papal visit (she covered religion for many years); and this magazine piece on Iraq war veterans. Or just send her an email to welcome her to the Chalkbeat community. Her brand-new-today email address is bcipolla@chalkbeat.org.

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.