Throughout this project, I have learned how the principles of John Dewey and Ella Baker about education and organizing can actually be applied to real organizations. Many of the organizations I researched started just like Baker suggested successful organizations should start— with the people and their interests. Often, in fact, the organizations specific to education and youth were started by youth in the first place, which goes with what Baker encouraged about youth being independent and having their own opinions that they build off of to initiate social change for themselves. Another note about Baker is her feelings about leadership, and specifically, charismatic leadership. I didn’t see one individual person getting credit for any of the grassroots organizations I looked at, which gave me hope that these organizations were of people with similar value and unique ideas and therefore more legitimate, not a group of followers blindly supporting one person.
Another thing I learned about urban education and community organizing was how many of the issues that face urban youth overlap, and this allows grassroots organizations to combat these issues from multiple different angles. The overlap of extracurricular activities and substance abuse, for example, isn’t a relationship that I first thought of. I thought that the primary consequences of a lack of extracurricular activities were more related to college acceptance and higher paying salaries than the perhaps more direct results of substance abuse, gang involvement, and teen pregnancy, all of which are prevalent in urban communities. This overlap was one of the most interesting things to me simply because I had never considered their relation to each other, and after I discovered it, I looked at each problem totally differently, as though it was part of one big problem of helping the disadvantaged youth in urban areas, more than just helping solve the teen pregnancy issues or extracurricular access issues. They all help to solve one another.
My last final takeaway is linked to the many overlapping problems in that I saw that during my research for grassroots organizations specific to my topic, organizations kept coming up that weren’t directly fighting for “equal extracurricular access” per se, but they were fighting poverty in urban areas or drug use in urban areas. This showed me that multiple grassroots organizations supported one another and advertised for one another because all the problems are linked and interdependent. If one organization gets support and extra volunteers or donations, it helps all the others with their fight too.