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Update: 2017 Thanksgiving Retreat Was Arguably The Best One Yet!

This year for the SCFP's annual Thanksgiving Retreat, we decided not to go to Illinois like we usually do. Instead, we took Freedom Fellows on a four-day trip to Atlanta, and we are happy to share that is was a huge success! We got to visit some amazing Civil Rights landmarks, some very well-known Historically Black Colleges, and several of the major tourist attractions in the city. Atlanta is also the hometown of two of our staff members, Mr. Harris and Ms. Stewart, so getting to visit their families and old neighborhoods made the trip even more special. Our Freedom Fellows showed outstanding leadership throughout the entire trip, and there were smiles and laughter galore! When it was time to head back to Mississippi, Freedom Fellows begged to stay, which is a sign that this was one of, if not, the best Thanksgiving Retreats we have taken! Check out some action shots from the trip below! Until next time, y'all...Peace!

Freedom Fellows at the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site which includes his birth home and Ebenezer Baptist Church where he ministered!

Freedom Fellows at the National Center for Civil and Human Rights located in Downtown Atlanta!

Freedom Fellows at a dinner party hosted by Mr. Harris' family!

Freedom Fellows visiting Centennial Olympic Park, Woodruff Park, and getting a behind-the-scenes tour of the CNN Center. 

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The annual SCFP Young Men's Trip and Young Women's Lock-In was a success!

Each semester, we have a gender separate trip/lock-in for our Freedom Fellows. We believe that it is important to give our young men and women the opportunity to spend quality time together separate from members of the opposite sex. This allows students to really be themselves and creates a safe space where they can comfortably discuss topics concerning masculinity and femininity. When we have a young men's/young women's weekend, one group will have a lock-in, while the other group goes on a trip somewhere. We do this at least once a semester, so that both groups get to have a lock-in together and take a trip together over the course of a school year. This past weekend, our young women and female staff had a lock-in here at the LEAD Center, while the young men and male staff took an overnight trip to Jackson, MS. 

Young Men's Trip

The first stop on our trip was to the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science. There, we got to learn all about how plants and wildlife in Mississippi have evolved over the course of many centuries. There were also some cool aquariums which housed baby alligators and giant catfish! Next, we went to High Heaven Trampoline Park for some recreational fun! Our boys had a blast doing dunks on the trampoline basketball court and leaping high into the air to do flips into the foam pits. After working up an appetite, we went to a build-your-own burrito shop, and finished the night off watching movies and playing games at a local church. It was a night full of laughs and smiles that definitely built camaraderie between our male Freedom Fellows and staff members! Check out some pics from the trip below... 

Young Women's Lock-In

For the Young Women’s Lock-In, our female Freedom Fellows and staff hosted the female Freedom Fellows and staff from the Meridian Freedom Project here at the LEAD Center. Together, they built community and discussed issues facing young women in their schools and communities. They based their discussions on poetry by Rupi Kaur and Mahogany Brown, two inspiring female poets. Freedom Fellows then spent time writing their own poetry and prose, as well as expressing themselves through visual art. After a delicious pizza dinner, they played games, watched movies, and spent time hanging out. The overnight event was a big success and definitely brought the women of the SCFP and MFP closer together! Check out some pics from the lock-in below...

Next semester, our young women will take a trip, and our young men will have a lock-in here at the LEAD Center! Until next time, y'all....Peace!! 

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Update: 1st and 2nd Year Camping Trips Were a Huge Success!

Our academic portion of Freedom Summer 2017 ended a few weeks ago with a beautiful Freedom Day Celebration,  and we immediately began the educational travel portion of our summer program with our first and second year camping trips.

We took off with our second year Freedom Fellows first on a trip to Tennessee and Arkansas. Our first stop was at the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, where our Freedom Fellows learned about the struggle for human and civil rights beginning with the transatlantic slave trade up to the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The next day, we stopped in Little Rock to visit Little Rock Central High School and learned more about the desegregation crisis of 1957. After visiting Little Rock Central, we stopped at the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center, a museum intended to preserve and celebrate the history and culture of African-American Arkansans. There, we learned about African-Americans from Arkansas who have done amazing things, and we participated in an educational program about student activism and a modern day Civil Rights Movement. In between our educational activities, we were at our campsite doing team building activities, telling scary stories over a campfire, and just hanging out with each other! Check out some pictures from our second year camping trip below! 

After three days with our second years, we took our first year Freedom Fellows on a four-day trip to Alabama. Before we headed to Alabama, though, our first stop was at the Emmett Till Intrepid Center in Glendora, MS. There, we learned more about the heinous murder of Emmett Till, and how his death became fuel for the rest of the Civil Rights Movement. From there, we went to our campsite in Alabama to get settled for the night. The next day, we headed to Birmingham to visit the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, which is located directly across the street from the 16th St. Baptist Church- a historic landmark of the Civil Rights Movement. At this museum, our Freedom Fellows were able to get more of an in-depth understanding of civil rights activists (both well-known and not as well-known) and the roles that they played in key moments throughout American history. On the third day, we went to Selma and learned more about the voting rights marches of 1965 which include Bloody Sunday and Turn Around Tuesday, eventually leading to the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Also while in Selma, we stopped at By the River Center for Humanity, where our Freedom Fellows went through an interactive experience that put them in the shoes of enslaved Africans. This experience helped Freedom Fellows better understand the brutality and dehumanization that their ancestors endured, and it also helped them understand the level of strength that they had to never lose hope and maintain a positive spirit. And just as with our second year trip, we had plenty of bonding time at our campsite where we played card games, went on nature hikes, and spent time swimming in the lake! Check out some pictures from our first year camping trip below! 

Our next trip will be a week spent at the University of Mississippi with all of our Freedom Fellows. Be on the lookout for an update from that trip, which will conclude programming for Freedom Summer 2017!

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The SCFP Partners with Delta Grace for Renovation Project

The LEAD Center is undergoing some much needed renovations thanks to groups of volunteers from Delta Grace. Delta Grace is a non-profit organization run by the Sunflower United Methodist Church. They organize mission service projects in Sunflower and surrounding communities to improve people’s living situations and to help organizations, like the SCFP, in their mission to serve young people in the Delta.

Volunteers from Delta Grace have been working hard at the Lead Center to secure our floors, walls, ceilings, and to improve the utility of our rooms! We are so thankful for their work to help make our building a more vibrant place for students to come and learn. To show our appreciation, we spent one day this week helping with some of the work at their service sites around Sunflower. It was an amazing opportunity for us to build relationships and strengthen our community through service work.  Check out some pictures of Freedom fellows working at East Sunflower Elementary School below!

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SCFP hosts its first annual College Signing Day/Alumni Induction Ceremony!

Last week, we had a first for the Sunflower County Freedom Project-- an event that was dedicated solely to celebrating our graduating seniors! The first portion of the event was a "signing day", where our seniors announced to the public what colleges they will be attending next Fall (just like highly-recruited high school athletes do). We are pleased to announce that Ms. Tatyana Culpepper will be attending Millsaps College, Mr. Quay Williams will be attending Ole Miss, and Ms. Sharonda Edwards will be attending Berea College.

 After the college announcements, we had an alumni induction ceremony; our staff members gave speeches dedicated to the seniors and officially welcomed them into the SCFP's 2017 alumni class. We gave the seniors custom made SCFP stoles to wear on graduation day, had an SCFP cake made with their names on it, and had a room full of congratulations cards and love notes created by our younger Freedom Fellows. This event was a blast, and we are excited to make it an annual tradition at the SCFP!

We are SO proud of our seniors for their accomplishments up to this point, and we can't wait to see what amazing things they will accomplish in the future! Please join us in sending much love and congratulations their way! Check out some pics from the event below...

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Update: SCFP Spring Break Trip was a Huge Success

A few weeks ago, the SCFP traveled around Texas for 6 days making stops in Houston, Austin, and Dallas as a part of our annual Spring Break trip; we are pleased to say that it was a huge success!  Throughout the trip we visited colleges; we performed our play, The Parchman Hour, and we had a lot of fun exploring the cities and visiting tourist attractions. Here is a list, in chronological order, of some of the cool things we did throughout the week:

  • Visited LeTourneau University in Longview, Texas
  • Visited MaxBowl in Humble, Texas for a night of laser tag, bowling, and arcade games
  • Had brunch with one of our founders, Gregg Costa, and his colleagues from the U.S. Attorney's Office at The Breakfast Klub in Houston
  • Performed at the Alley Theatre, a Tony Award-winning theatre in Houston
  • Saw The King and I at The Hobby Center for the Performing Arts in Houston
  • Visited The Houston Health Museum and The Houston Museum for African-American Culture
  • Visited the Hope Outdoor Gallery, a public graffiti park in Austin (and did an SCFP mural)
  • Had a tour of the Texas State Capitol Complex in Austin
  • Visited McMurry University in Abilene, TX
  • Visited Six Flags Over Texas in Dallas

As you can see, we had the opportunity to do a lot of amazing things during our trip. The entire week was an extraordinary experience for our Freedom Fellows! We are super grateful to all of our hosts, contacts, and supporters in each city who worked with us to make this trip a success. We also appreciate everyone who came out to support our Drama Troupe performances. Check out the slideshow of pictures from the trip below; they are in chronological order from the beginning of the trip until the end! Until next time y'all...PEACE!!!

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Students From Baltimore Visit the SCFP!

This week, we were happy to have another visiting group in the building. Every year, students from several Baltimore area high schools embark on a Civil Rights tour throughout the South, taking time to visit landmark locations of the Civil Rights Movement, and to make connections with new people in the communities they visit. This was the second year that they decided to stop by the SCFP while they were in Mississippi, and we were happy to have them!

The Baltimore students and our Freedom Fellows had the chance to get to know each other a little bit and to share experiences. They did an activity where they had to discuss issues of inequality that they see in their communities, and they were asked to come up with a list of actions that they can take to promote positive changes. It was very inspiring to see a room full of young leaders thinking critically about what they can do to have a positive impact on their communities. Check out a few pics from the visit below! 

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The SCFP Visits the Midwest for Our 2016 Thanksgiving Retreat!

Hello family and friends of the Sunflower County Freedom Project!

It has been a very busy Fall semester here at the SCFP. We have just returned from our annual Thanksgiving Retreat, and I am happy to announce that it was a total success! Our Thanksgiving Retreat is a reward for our students who have completed all of our academic requirements, and who have shown exemplary leadership skills throughout the first half of our semester. The retreat is an opportunity for our students to visit different colleges, learn about different people/cultures in other regions of the country, and of course to have some fun! 

This year, our first stop on the trip was to Rhodes College in Memphis. It was great for our students to see a school that is very rigorous, but also has great support systems for students. We also had an amazing tour guide, who was able to share his experiences as an African-American student on a predominately white campus!

After our visit at Rhodes, we headed up to Champaign, Illinois. In Champaign, our students stayed with host families in order to fully immerse them in the culture of the city. They aslo did some community service work with a local organization that makes donations to support towns in the Delta! We even got to show off our bowling skills (or lack thereof) with some local high school students.

After a few days in Champaign, we headed to Chicago. First, we met with an organization that is implementing Restorative Justice practices into Chicago Public Schools. It was great to learn about alternative methods of dealing with conflict and disciplining students in a school setting. From there, we got to do some sightseeing downtown, and we visited the zoo. Then, we capped off our time in Chicago by having a "meet and greet" with a youth organization called the Kappa League Leadership Institute. This was a program that one of our program directors, Mr. Harris, was a part of when he was in high school, and their mission is very similar to that of the Freedom Project. It was so awesome to learn about a program that is doing very similar work in a completely different setting, and for Mr. Harris to get a chance to visit the program as an alum!

This trip was full of learning, broadening of horizons, networking, and smiles! Check out some of the amazing pictures from the trip below! Happy Holidays to you and your family from the SCFP! PEACE!

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Students From Aspen, Colorado Visit The SCFP!

This week we had some visitors in the building all the way from Aspen, Colorado! The Aspen students came ready to get down and dirty with the Freedom Fellows in our Freedom Garden, and after all their hard work, we all came together to enjoy some pizza and to get to know each other a bit. We are always looking for opportunities where our students can learn from others and teach others about themselves, so we are glad to have had the Aspen group stop by! Check out some of the pics from their visit below!

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Freedom Summer 2016 Ends on a High Note!

This past week, the SCFP spent four days at Ole Miss for our last trip of the summer. Students got a chance to get a taste of what college courses are like, we visited with different centers for academic support on campus, heard the perspectives of students from diverse backgrounds including student-athletes, and had a lot of time for team bonding and fun! What a perfect way to cap off a fantastic summer of growth and great memories here at the SCFP!! Some pics from our Ole Miss trip are below...See y'all in September!!!!

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SCFP High Schoolers Take On Summer College Programs

This summer, some of our high school students are getting the chance to get an actual feel for what college is like by participating in some summer enrichment programs. We have students participating in programs at Phillips Academy (Andover, MA), Yale (New Haven, CT) and Ole Miss (Oxford, MS). We are so excited for Freedom Fellows to have the opportunity to experience the rigor of college-level courses, living with roommates, and all the other facets of college life that one can only learn through experience. Below is  a screenshot of an Instagram post from Phillips featuring one of our Freedom Fellows, and a pic of Kate and I visiting our students at Ole Miss!!

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Update: 2nd Year Camping Trip A Success!

We have finished our academic portion of the summer, and we are now in the middle of our camping trips! For our first trip of the summer, we took our second year Freedom Fellows to the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis and to visit Little Rock Central High School in Arkansas. Our students enjoyed engaging with the history of the Civil Rights Movement and having some fun bonding over s'mores and spooky stories/splashing down in the lake!! Check out some of our pics from the trip below!!!

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Teach for America Visits the SCFP!

This week we had some very special visitors in our building! A group of 2016 TFA corps members stopped by to get a tour, and listened to some of our Freedom Fellows talk about the work we do here and share some of their experiences. We value our partnership with Teach for America, so it was a pleasure to have them! Best of luck to y'all as you begin your teaching journeys, and we look forwarding to working with y'all in the future to continue to serve the students of the Delta!!

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Hardcore Camping: Great Smoky Mountain National Park

Each spring a small group  of Freedom Fellows strap on their packs and head into the backcountry to test their mettle on the hardcore camping trip. This year we had eight brave students who signed up for the chance to climb Bote Mountain and spend two nights camping in the woods! They learned about leaving no trace and how to avoid any unwanted interactions with bears! We climbed, we meditated on the banks of a lovely river, we froze our fingers raw, and we ate great Tennessee BBQ! It was an epic trip!

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More Spring Break Pictures!

Check out more pictures of our Freedom Fellows on Spring Break!

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Spring Break Update!

As we pack our bags to head back to Mississippi tomorrow, we wanted to share a few photos of our Spring Break Trip! Highlights include seeing Mary Poppins at the Hobby Center in Houston, seeing the Rockets play, learning about civil rights at the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library in Austin, visiting many colleges and universities, meeting Dr. Flowers and learning about C-STEM, and checking out NASA! Freedom Fellows earned this trip by completing their Novel Studies assignments and being awesome LEADers! Our drama students performed our play three times and received much applause and praise, while also creating amazing opportunities for some tough conversations about race! Very proud of all the students on this trip for their hard work and their adventurous attitudes!

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Texas Friends- We are coming your way!

The SCFP Drama Troupe is taking ECHOES on the road! Here's our performance schedule in Texas!

Alley Theater in Houston, TX: Monday, March 14th 2 PM

St. Johns United Methodist Church, Austin, TX: Tuesday, March 15th 6:30 PM

Arapaho United Methodist Church, Dallas, TX: Thursday, March 17th 7:00 PM

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Opening Night! Come see Echoes!

Our Freedom Fellows did an awesome job this past Saturday during opening night of our play Echoes at the BB King Museum! Many thanks to the museum for hosting us and for the great audience we had supporting our actors!

Next up: we are performing this coming Saturday at the Fannie Lou Hamer Multipurpose Building @ 710 Byron St. in Ruleville, MS. Curtain call at 1 pm! Come out to celebrate Black History Month and our tremendous Freedom Fellows!

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Eat your burgers!

Hey Joe's in Cleveland, MS is a great place to get a burger....especially when a portion of your purchase goes to help the Freedom Project! A big thanks to Justin Huerta and the gang at Hey Joe's for picking the SCFP for the February Charity of the Month! You are a great community partner and we are lucky to have you on our team!

GO GET YOUR BURGER!

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Friends from Baltimore & Providence

Students participating in an ice-breaker where they shared fun facts about themselves. 

Students participating in an ice-breaker where they shared fun facts about themselves. 

A couple times a year we host visiting student groups from across the country. This is always an exciting time for Freedom Fellows! They jump at the opportunity to share about their lives, and learn about others. Usually the visit lasts only a couple of hours, but the exchange of knowledge and friendship is priceless. This past week we hosted students from Baltimore and Providence.

Students ranking their communities on activism and social change.

Students ranking their communities on activism and social change.

We learned about racial tensions in Baltimore communities and shared about the challenges we have at our schools in Sunflower County. We talked about student activism and how young people can make their schools and communities better.

We were very proud of our Freedom Fellows for how they welcomed our guests and how they contributed to the conversation. So many students shared freely about themselves, their lives, and their hopes for the future! #proudSCFPstaff

 

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