SPRINGFIELD, MO. — The Springfield-Greene County Park Board launches the new Freedom Classroom 101 series Feb. 4 at Timmons Hall, 1055 E. Webster Ave. in historic Silver Springs Park.
The workshop series aims to equip teachers to research, rethink and reimagine how they teach African American studies.
The series opens Friday, Feb. 4, 2:30 p.m. with keynote speaker Akbar Cook, Sr., principal of Newark, New Jersey’s West End High School. Cook became known for creating the Light’s On program at Newark, New Jersey’s West End High School, which provides students with a safe place to spend Friday nights.
In-person registration for this event is full, but the presentation will be livestreamed on the City of Springfield’s Facebook page @CityofSGF and on AfricanAmericanHeritageTrailSGF.org. Online participants are encouraged to hold watch parties, with a goal of 30 registered watch party coordinators. Sign up by emailing facility coordinator Christine Peoples.
At Cook’s Light’s On program, students have the option to eat, play video games and basketball, do laundry, have assistance with homework and participate in other activities at school until 11 p.m. Cook has not lost a student to gun violence since starting Light’s On. He says there has been an increase in daily attendance since making other investments in the school. In 2020, Oprah Winfrey surprised Cook with a $500,000 donation to the school, which allows it to keep its lights on every night. Cook has appeared on “Ellen” and “CBS This Morning” and been featured by CNN and The Grio.
The Freedom Classroom 101 series continues through June. Three work sessions connect to the Timmons Hall’s Meet n’ Greet program framework to assist with setting foundational norms in the classroom while teaching African American studies through place-based learning. Dates include:
- Saturday, Feb. 26, 10:30 a.m.-2 p.m. — Art Immersion, with Kendra Chappell, author, educator, counselor and writer/director of “The Milly Project,” a play and film exploring the story of Milly Sawyers, an enslaved woman who won her freedom in a Greene County Court in 1834. Chappell’s workshop is meant to equip educators to deal with hard histories, empathy, resilience and value, through movement and creation.
- Saturday, April 23, 10:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Meet n’ Greet Spotlight — Just Be Present, with Mark Simmonds, Springfield Option Site Program Coordinator for Springfield Public Schools; and Culturally Responsive Literature, with Dr. Sabrina A. Brinson, author, activist, diversity consultant, professor of childhood education and family studies at Missouri State University, and founder of Boys Booked on Barbershops and Girls Booked on Beautyshops literacy programs.
- Saturday, June 11, 10:30 a.m.-2 p.m. — The Equity Lens Model, with Taj Suleyman, Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, City of Springfield.
Admission to the series is $30 and includes all three workshop dates and lunch. Registration is required and space is limited.
The Freedom Classroom 101 Workshop Series is made possible through a grant from the Community Foundation of the Ozarks’ Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Fund. To register for programs, contact Christine Peoples, Timmons Hall Coordinator, at 417-864-1046.
Timmons Hall opened to the public in 2019 following relocation to Silver Springs Park in 2015 and years of restoration work, managed by Friends of Timmons Temple. The former church was built in 1932 at the corner of Webster Street and Texas Avenue, overlooking Silver Springs Park. The church served Springfield’s African American community for more than 80 years before the congregation outgrew the building and relocated. Timmons Hall now serves as an event facility offering historical, cultural and educational opportunities, owned and operated by the Park Board.
For more information, visit ParkBoard.org/TimmonsHall.
For media inquiries, contact Jenny Fillmer Edwards, Public Information Administrator for the Springfield-Greene County Park Board, at 417-224-5510.