"My name is Gwendolene Mugodi and I am a writer and the founder of Paivapo Storytellers, a movement that aims to provide better access to local, good quality literature to the children in Zimbabwe--and eventually beyond. Our work would not be complete without the help of local artists like Abel Zvorufura who I met through the National Gallery of Zimbabwe. As two different artists we spent about a month and a half going back and forth on this book until we got to a place we were both happy with. I look forward to sharing that full book in a few months, but for now here's a little bit about Abel and why he does what he does."
Learning through Lyrics
Austin is a 2015 Social Innovation Fellow. He has developed Rhymes with Reason, an interactive platform that teaches academic vocabulary to inner city students using hiphop lyrics. This summer, he is piloting Rhymes with Reason in Inglewood, CA, San Diego, CA, and Detroit, MI.
This June, I kicked off a summer-long pilot program for Rhymes with Reason at an All-Boys reform school, Frederick Douglass Academy, in inner city Detroit. I am particularly proud of this experience in the city of Detroit, because of Detroit’s symbolism in my journey. I am the first person in my family who was not born in inner city Detroit. I strongly believe that avoiding the misfortune and tribulation that faces many children who grow up in America’s most struggling inner city gave me a leg up that has contributed to my success today. During my time introducing Rhymes with Reason in several classrooms at Frederick Douglass Academy I connected and worked with students who I, very easily, “could have been” if my parents didn’t make the fateful decision to move out of Detroit a short time before I was born.
After the students received Rhymes with Reason, I witnessed the distance between myself and these fellow young black men in this reform school become even less significant. I already knew that I “could have been” any one of these young men if it weren’t for good fortune, but after seeing these students use Rhymes with Reason I found out that conversely, they could “be me.”
In a single hour, I was able to teach students 12 new SAT vocabulary words using Rhymes with Reason. During this hour, students were completely engaged, and having fun learning as they listened to their favorite rappers utter high level vocabulary words in various songs. Students even got to come up with their own freestyle raps where they very craftily incorporated the given SAT word into the rap. Through this activity students were able to exhibit correct usage of the word, applying their own unique context to the words they learned. At the end of the hour, I went around the room and asked students the meanings of each word that we taught. Students, essentially in unison, correctly identified the meanings of every single word explored in that lesson. By the activity’s end, I found myself so surprised by students' amazingly positive performance in the classroom. The listening, and attention in that room resembled a college class. The next day students about whom teachers told me “getting them to study is like pulling teeth," approached and told me that they went home and spent time studying via Rhymes with Reason on their own volition.
This entire experience showed how students can shine and excel when their interest is piqued. Seemingly every student that I met at Frederick Douglass Academy had the natural ability necessary to attend college, but they just needed to see an example of academia in their language to feel the confidence to go study, and to feel that excelling in school is actually attainable. I am by no means saying I am the standard for young black males attending college but I know that there are many more students who can “be like me” if they are given the chance. Rhymes with Reason will be a force that gives students that chance.
August 11, 2016
June 13, 2016
Lauren Maunus '19 is starting a bold new venture.
Its goal: To help eliminate food waste and bring healthy, affordable food to "food swamps" in Rhode Island and beyond.
March 15, 2016"If little girls like me were saying Barbie is the pretty one and the brown one is the ugly one, that's a problem."
Yelitsa Jean-Charles studies Illustration at RISD with a a concentration in Gender, Race & Sexuality. She identifies as a visual activist, and believes that artists have a responsibility as society’s image-makers. Her doll company and book series, Healthy Roots, combats internalized racism and colorism by getting to the root of the problem: altering beauty standards and cultviating self-love for young girls through education, diversity, and positive representation.
March 12, 2016An Excerpt
Mina is a Brown-RISD Social Innovation Fellow. She traveled to her home in Iran last summer and brought back a cultural souvenir: the book she wrote, Taste of Culture. She explores Iranian families, streets, stores and the stories and spirit embedded in the recipes of Iranian food. She hopes to start a conversation about the benefit of knowing cuisines of different cultures to connect societies.
This year's class of Brown-RISD Social Innovation Fellows have just begun their yearlong foray into the world of social entrepenuership. Check out their projects here.
December 16, 2015
Ria is a 2015 Social Innovation Fellow and co-founder of No Country for Women (NCFW), an internationally-recognized gender education initiative that aims to combat systemic gender-based discrimination in India. Ria and her co-founder, Shreena Thakore ’16, who grew up in India, were awarded the Projects for Peace fellowship and used this grant to launch the project in May of 2014. NCFW was set up to educate the people in India on gender, rape culture, and misogyny through a series of workshops and initiate informed discussions about social change.
I was inspired by Ria’s story because she was determined to start a conversation about an issue in a country that fights hard to keep such issues silent and hidden. We reflected on Ria’s experiences, her interactions with young people, most of whom had never thought about this obvious form of discrimination before, and her moments of self-doubt and extreme conviction.
October 2, 2015