All educators worth their salt know you can learn far more from your students than you could ever teach. I have been mentored by my students in Bible Study, in exercise and weight loss regiments, and most recently, I had the opportunity to work with a former training participant on a United Way Grant. Derrick Lewis of Men of Courage, works with boys at multiple schools throughout Columbus, OH. He received a grant to further that work, but this time he decided he wanted to do something for the girls, as well. He tells the story that one young lady asked, “Mr. Lewis, when are you going to do something for the girls?” At first, he dismissed her request, but the next time he saw her she asked, “Mr. Lewis, when are you going to do something for the girls?” This continued until Mr. Lewis thought, I better do something for the girls.
Derrick asked if I would be interested in working with a girl’s group, and as a writer and publisher the 1st thing that came to mind was, “Sure, we can do a book project!” From this – the book, the journal and the movement – "Keep the Peace" was born. I worked with a group of young ladies from A+ Arts Academy Fair Avenue Campus for three weeks at the end of the 2016/2017 school year. In that three weeks the students had mandatory testing, field trips, field days and some just did not want to participate. But there were six girls who completed their submissions and whose parents granted permission for them to be a part of the book. I reached out to other parents of young people in the community and we ended up with 20 collaborators altogether. The writing excerpts in Keep the Peace are funny, thought provoking, enlightening, and unnerving. They reaffirmed my greater capacity to learn more than I could ever teach, especially from our youth.
"Keep the Peace" is dedicated to Carolyn Berkley." She is the founder of A+ Arts Academy, and she passed away in 2016. Carolyn is very close to me. Not because I knew her personally, but because of the closeness she shared with my Aunt and Cousins, the Price family; because of the sheer gratitude, fondness and frequency that my dear friend, Leslie Hagwood, spoke of her; and because of her vision. Carolyn was a pioneer in the likes of Mary McLeod Bethune and Marva Collins. What a legacy to have started a school that values the arts as a central part of learning and self-discovery. Her legacy continues with her children and the administration, teachers and staff of A+ Arts Academy.
Dr. Renene Craft, A+ Arts Academy District Principal, plays an essential role in continuing Carolyn
Berkley’s vision. She authorized the purchase of 100 books and 100 journals to be distributed to the young ladies who were a part of the compilation and to all those present at the "Keep the Peace" ceremony! This occurred because Dr. Craft identified an issue of bullying in the school, implemented a mentoring program that now addresses the needs of its boys and girls, and invested in the students to make sure the young ladies had the "Keep the Peace" book and journal to read the offerings of their peers and actively pen their thoughts, fears, and triumphs regarding the subject. Dr. Craft ensures an A+ Arts Academy education continues to include fine arts, dance, cultural outings, mentoring programs, visits from prominent members of the community and at large and much more.
The book, "Keep the Peace", was a lot of hard work, and I could not have done it without the assistance of Ayanna Niambi’s artistic direction and the input, presentation and content submissions of Cynthia Price, founder of Moving Forward Communication, LLC. But our hard work would have been all for naught, if it wasn’t for the vision of Carolyn Berkley, the vigilance of Dr. Renene Craft, and the voice of the little girl who appreciated the great work that was being done at the school, but couldn’t help but wonder, “Mr. Lewis, when are you going to do something for the girls?”