WHY WE ARE HERE Allendale 10/11 by Dixie Goswami

The USC Salkahatchie Conference Room in Allendale was the center of the universe for us yesterday:  I learned so much.  First that Lil is on the road a lot and a poet who teaches.  She picked up Aiken HS teacher(new SC NGLN community mentor), Dale and RJ (new SC NGLNs) at Aiken HS after 4 pm and drove to

Allendale (about an hour or so) with treats and more.  July 12-15 launched BLTN NextGen, but October 11 kicked off SC Rural Social Action Team, after a month of more of intensive meeting/planning, with Sara June there for one of our partners (SC Arts Commission) and Lottie Lewis who leads the Arts Commission’s “Art of Community:  Rural SC” initiative in Allendale County.

The trip to Allendale yesterday reminded me that being /being present is at the heart of BLTN NextGen, ABL, BLTN…all we do.  And that diversity is an understatement when it comes to our network.  Allendale’s traditions of struggle and advocacy reach WAY back and persist today. Now I can imagine all of us listening to Lottie, Allendale community NGLN mentor, speak about getting things done, being hopeful, and  much more.  How she ran for mayor last time round, etc.  What we have in common (Dale, 16, sports/poetry:  What’s my issue?  Keeping my little brother off the streets and alive…”)  We must figure out what BLTN NGLN can do to support Allendale/Aiken – what will matter to them.  For example, everybody agrees that a newsletter a couple of times a year that can be taken home to be read, distributed, etc is important no matter how good the BLTN NGLN stuff online is:  sounds simple, right?  

Bread Loaf has, Lou has, Vermont has people to turn to: communications, tech, writers, photographers, the means to print 500 flyers and post to website. None of that available to the rural SC NGLN youth who are ready and willing but MUST have resources and support from BLTN NextGen.  Although the packets (July 12-15 certificate, announcement, etc) were received, not one single public announcement even in the HS newspaper or on the website has been published. (I’ll follow up with Anne Shealy at SC Dept of Education.)

Semeia, Alani, and Christine Brown saw the film for the first time yesterday.  Could the steering committee and/or BL staff (us) work with Lil, the four Allendale/Aiken NGLNs, Christine and Kayla (Aiken HS teacher/community mentor) to get a flyer published so they begin to have an identity and local recognition?  Brainstorming here.  The goal right now is to have TEN NGLN SC youth leaders at the center of SC team for Year 1.  Looking at stipends, travel costs, paid internships, and a community of love, respect, informed action – NETWORKED.

Alani:  “Bread Loaf – Vermont – is utopia, but the people are real.”

Dale: “I have never seen a mountain. I’d like a look at Uptopia.”

“If you are a student at Allendale HS, you are vulnerable.”  Wise words.

Kayla:  “I’ve been waiting for this to happen for two years.”

Lottie, advocate and leader in Allendale, was there – really there – and in for the long haul.  Semeia and Alani organized and led the meeting.  The creative passion and intelligence of the two young basketball players (both 10th graders) and Semeia Brown and Alani Williams were amazing and on display.  Alani and Semeia’s local social action project – to provide now non-existent reading/writing tutoring for 3rd graders who under the new receivership mandate will be held back if they don’t meet “standards”–hard to put in place at school but some support.  Received a boost when Lottie joined their project.  BADLY NEEDED:  A flyer about BLTN/NGLN/SC Rural Social Action team, a time/place for them to make their pitch and show the film:  Lil’s on it with them.  Takes time, not easy, but grows out of needs brought into focus by recent take-over crisis.

Christine, Lil, Alani, and Semeia spoke about their (fully funded by SEF) trip to MLK Civil and Human Rights Museum with Kip, Robbie, and other WTS Louisville NGLNS to meet with Jackie at Southern Education Foundation Forum on education and social justice: they will be panelists.  They’ll have $$$ in the pot for a cross-site visit and will be inquiring about and considering Navajo Youth Leadership spring 2018.

Turning point came when Lil read “Maria Maria” and Lily’s comments about poetry….we recorded and will write to Lily.  POETRY — free and creative expression — That’s what we know about forming social action communities with heart.  Dale read Doug’s words about “Why we are here.”

When Sara June and I left after a lively meeting, run with grace and competence by Alani and Semeia, the meeting was still going strong, working with Lil on a to-do list. 

On the long ride to Allendale, we passed vast acres of cotton fields, looking – if you squint your eyes – like snow.

Lillian Reeves

3 Responses to “WHY WE ARE HERE Allendale 10/11 by Dixie Goswami

  • Dixie Goswami
    4 years ago


    I’m excited about meeting Tuesday, November 7, with the NGLN SC Social Action Team. Tomorrow we’ll meet at the University of South Carolina Aiken (our host for SC NGLN), with guests who are our partners and community mentors, to hear about ideas, actions, and plans. We’ll hear about Semeia and Alani’s and Christine and Lillian’s presentation next week in Atlanta at the Southern Education Foundations “Reimagining Education” conference: their panel: Youth Leadership and Social Justice.

    Never was a meeting more anticipated: we need in this time of another tragedy to be together.

    More soon….

  • Tom McKenna
    4 years ago

    Thanks , Dixie, Lill, Sameia, Alani and SC crew! Please report on the Southern Education Foundation conference as you can.

  • Ceci Lewis
    4 years ago

    Dixie, Lil, Sameia, Alani, Christine, and the whole SC crew,
    Thank you for this report. I can feel the energy and the urgency needed to ensure that SC NGLN gets a good base going. As Dixie writes” :The trip to Allendale yesterday reminded me that being /being present is at the heart of BLTN NextGen, ABL, BLTN…all we do.” As I read this, I was reminded that being able to listen and hear what is needed and how we can help is also essential. I cannot be in SC at the meetings, but if I can help by making flyers and sending them to you all, I most certainly will. I am not crazy creative, but I do have Publisher and I can dream something up if you will send me the information.
    I am ready!

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