East Orange School District’s Curators of Genius Present The 1619 Project in Honor of National Freedom Day

East Orange School District’s Curators of Genius Team, who are a part of the Pulitzer Center’s 1619 Education Network, hosted an event in honor of National Freedom Day on February 8, 2023 at Althea Gibson Academy.The purpose of the event, according to team members was to demonstrate the importance of fostering a positive self-identity among all learners.
In 2019, journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones, produced a series of articles for the New York Times which she called the 1619 Project. 1619 is the year that the first enslaved Africans arrived in Jamestown, Virginia. The 1619 Project illustrated how all aspects of American life have been affected by slavery and its impact continues to this very day. In 2020, Ms. Hannah- Jones won the Pulitzer Prize for her work. Nationwide, educators began to use the 1619 Project as a resource in their classrooms. The Pulitzer Center created the 1619 Education Network to support educators in their work and also to provide an opportunity for national dialogue on how issues of race can be explored and studied in classrooms. Participation in the network provided additional support and resources at a national level. The Curators of Genius Team, used The 1619 Project: Born on the Water, as an anchor text for their work. The team created and executed lessons for students in grades PreK through six. Each writing team was responsible for select grade bands.
The teams are as follows:
• Pre-Kindergarten – Ms. Crystal Featherstone and Ms. Lyndsey Wood
• Kindergarten – Ms. Nicole Smith and Ms. Rosalyn Stewart
• First Grade – Ms. Ilyse Gorbunoff
• Second Grade and Third Grade – Dr. Renee Richardson
• Third Grade and Fourth Grade – Ms. Shea Richardson
• Fifth Grade – Ms. Angela Davis

Writing was guided by a theoretical framework that put a “positive self-identity” for all learners at its core. Planning and writing were done during the Summer of 2022 and lessons were executed from September 2022 thru February 2023. Student work was displayed throughout the hallways of Gibson Academy in what was called the “1619 Museum”. Spoken word, singing and dancing was performed by students. As an added bonus, high school students joined the Curators of Genius for this evening of celebration. The night ended with a multicultural fashion show. Students who are American by nationality, dressed in clothes to represent their family’s heritage, reaffirming their self-identity while embracing all that it means to be an American.