116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — The Academy for Scholastic and Personal Success is providing a new, free learning opportunity for adults, diving deep into topics on race, social inequities and their impact on youth.
The Academy for Scholastic and Personal Success was founded over 30 years ago to provide students an education they can’t find in a public school classroom.
It teaches students about Black history, literature, math and science, and offers a postsecondary seminar to help students prepare for college and succeed once they get there.
It also offers a six-week summer program for high school students and after-school programs for elementary and middle school students in Cedar Rapids schools.
Now, The Academy is branching out to adult learners with Critical Conversations, a free, virtual platform to learn about Black history, ask questions and have discussions with experts in a safe environment.
Critical Conversations is hosted by Ruth White, founder and executive director of The Academy; Eric McKinley Thompson, director of The Academy’s summer program; and Betty Daniels, a housing specialist at Waypoint Services.
Critical Conversations, which was launched in October, meets biweekly via Zoom. Resources on subjects being discussed will be provided to registrants the week before each discussion.
The next conversation, at 7 p.m. Dec 20, will focus on Black joy.
To register, visit theacademysps.com/community-outreach/.
Previous topics include redlining, reparations, Black cooking, the history of Black music, Black athletes, Black representation in film, critical race theory and the 1619 Project.
The most recent topic was the criminalization of Black boys. About 40 people participated.
The hosts agree Critical Conversations is about acknowledging “mis-education” in the U.S., especially when it comes to Black history, and providing people with education.
Critical Conversations is “detailed, emotional, investigative work,” McKinley Thompson said. It’s the “history of America we don’t get in a public school curriculum.”
“This is a safe place, and honest place, and these are things we do have to come face-to-face with for our children’s sake,” Daniels said. “In order for generations to move forward, we must have truth spoken … It’s hard to change when information has been withheld for hundreds of years.
“Come with an open heart, open mind and really just relax,” Daniels said. “Start to learn and understand differently.”
There is laughter, joy and grief during the conversations, Daniels said.
While some participants contribute to the dialogue, others just listen with their cameras off.
“We’re not forcing people to sit in the hot seat and speak when they’re not comfortable,” said Jane Hutchins, an Academy board member. “Some are there because, like me, they feel like they are starting at ground zero. I have a whole lot of listening to do before I can even speak.”
Because of its virtual platform, Critical Conversations has attracted participants from across the nation.
“I’m not under any allusion that we’re changing Cedar Rapids, but we will change the people who are with us, and, hopefully, there will be a ripple effect, and it doesn’t stop,” White said.
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