Donovan Livingston’s spoken word : “Lift Off”, which went viral on social media in spring 2016, has been a major inspiration throughout our journey with CUBE. Hence, we could not have been more excited when we finally participated in the Lightning Talks at the World Forum for Democracy in Strasbourg last year. As one of the main speakers at the workshop, Donovan did not only give us a taste of his famous poem, but also offered the audience insights into his work and the challenges he faces as an advocate for critical education.
Donovan is unapologetically Afro-American. And, he is unapologetic in his efforts to transform the education system in the US, which has been rather confining than liberating for minorities. One of his most favorite educational methods includes the technique of counter-narratives. This form of storytelling allows marginalized groups to push back against the dominate narrative and, subsequently, the system itself. Donovan himself stated that his entire life in school had been a counter-narrative in many ways in that being a minority population in predominantly white institutions, his experiences did not look like the mainstream perspectives. In a very healing way, counter-narratives provided him with the tool to tell his story. Counter-narratives enable their users to build a community, to challenge perceived stereotypes, to create hope and to give a voice to oppressed groups. Educational institutions need to work towards a safe space allowing for counter-narratives to be told. The question he posed to the audience and us was how to create such a space? This thought has become essential in forming and growing CUBE. What kind of space does CUBE want to offer? What is missing in our classrooms across Europe? Its critical thought. And, for critical thought to flourish, youngsters need to feel important again. They need to be provided with the necessary skills to actively listen to each other, form factual arguments and put themselves fearlessly out there. They need to be emboldened in knowing that their opinions matter.
Donovan on democratic classrooms, critical thought and on how to preserve plurality of thought:
Missed Donovan’s viral spoken word?