Free Minds, Free People Conference
Free Minds, Free People is a national conference convened by the Education for Liberation Network that brings together teachers, young people, researchers, parents and community-based activists/educators from across the country to build a movement to develop and promote education as a tool for liberation. Read more about the conference at fmfp.org. Due to COVID-19, we were fully virtual from July 9th-August 1st for FMFP!
In 2006, Charles M. Payne (historian & sociologist working in the areas of civil rights activism, urban education reform, and social inequality), Tara Mack and Susan Wilcox (who were at The Brotherhood/Sister Sol), and Mariame Kaba (founder of Project Nia) met in Chicago to discuss rekindling the Education for Liberation Network (ELN) listserv. While attending American Education Research Association (AERA) a few years before, Charles had assembled the listserv of Black educators working on social justice, and the Chicago meeting was planned to explore strategies for generating more meaningfully interaction, learning, and building together. The idea to create a space where young people would be centered, where people of color would lead, where everyone was a teacher and a learner, and where people could start to better define what an education for liberation meant was sparked. A few weeks after the Chicago meet-up, Tara (who would become Ed Lib’s founding director) and Susan (a former Ed Lib Board member) named the event in an organic call and response when one said free minds and the other free people; and so Free Minds, Free People (FMFP) was born. (Tara and Susan still argue over the comma!)
The first conference was held in July 2007 in Chicago at Little Village High School and was sponsored by four lead organizations: Education for Liberation Network, The Brotherhood/Sister Sol, Chicago Freedom School, the University of Chicago. Three hundred people attended and the palpable energy and tangible takeaways were so valuable that folks wanted to the conference to be an annual event. Exhausted from the heavy lift, the organizers decided to implement a bi-annual format, and since that first summer FMFP has taken place in different cities across the country: Houston (2009), Providence (2011), Chicago (2013), Oakland (2015), Baltimore (2017), Minneapolis (2019), and our first Virtual (2021).
FMFP 2013 Chicago
FMFP 2015 Oakland
FMFP 2017 Baltimore
FMFP 2019 Minneapolis
FMFP 2021 Virtual (Coming Soon)
Next FMFP TBA!
Attending the conference recharged my spirit. It's a space were I can learn about social justice while also feeling challenged. I have 15 years of teaching experience and sometimes I'm not sure if I will be able to stay another 10-15 years and maintain my physical and emotional health. Spaces like FMFP are extremely important to maintaining a community of people working towards social justice, in spite of the feeling of isolation I have at work.
FMFP is already helping me think critically about my curriculum plan and ways I can tweak it to make it empowering for my students.
One of the greatest strengths is the opportunities that young people have to lead--as facilitators and participants in workshops. And I love that children are so welcome--and that there are offerings for the very little ones. The overall structure is so much better than any other conference I've attended, too. The plenaries were excellent--and then you have two workshop sessions to attend. I like that the workshop sessions were longer so you could actually learn about others' work in a substantive way.