Education for change: Legacy Keepers keeps it real for students

2016 student tour group with Rev. Jesse Jackson at Operation PUSH in Chicago. (Photo courtesy of Tamera Irwin)

Legacy Keepers Inc.’s model is an excellent example of putting into practice the idea that for youngsters to be serious about learning, instructors need to be serious about educating them. It’s one thing to decry educational disparity, another to go about solving the problem, and the grassroots nonprofit is thoroughly exhaustive in its innovative, hands-on approach.

They start with the concept that learning isn’t confined to the classroom and, in fact, is most effective when the student steps beyond academia to experience lessons in context in the real world at large. To this end, the institute devises comprehensive curricula and detailed programs of field study.

For instance, March 30 through April 6, partnering with Minneapolis Public School’s Social Justice Fellows Tour, Legacy Keepers Inc. (LKI) junior high and high school scholars will make 10 eastern stops, starting with Washington, D.C. The trip will end in Savannah, North Carolina and will include the African American Museum, Howard University archives, and Greensboro, where in 1960 four protesters held an historic sit-in at a segregated Woolworth’s Department Store.

The trip is preceded March 25 by a workshop at Augsburg College to get students ready for their journey. There are four tours along with the upcoming Social Justice & Civil Rights Leadership Tour, which examines past movements’ impact on life today. Youth get a first-hand understanding of the current political and social climate that helps prepare them to make their own contributions.

Included is a component devoted to the school-to-prison pipeline that claims far too many young lives, arming them with information to help them act on their own behalf to avoid such a fate. The Griot Cultural & Arts Historical Service Tour focuses on and honors the rich history of African American art and, importantly, its pervasive global impact.

The Invention & Innovation Achievement Tour encompasses science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The Entrepreneur & Economic Empowerment Tour provides blueprints for establishing and sustaining enterprise to empower community. Also, there are LKI Summers programs: Harlem Renaissance Camp at Bethel University, Reginald F. Lewis Business Economic Empowerment Camp, and Mae C. Jemison Invention and Innovation Camp. In the past LKI has worked with Wise Charter School, delivering African studies to elementary classes.

Executive Director Tamera Arlene Irwin quite understandably finds this a labor of love and infinitely rewarding. “It’s wonderful to do the work we’re doing. It just gets more and more enriching to provide structure and create opportunity for young folk.

“We want to give them solid information so that as they’re analyzing specific social issues they have more to work with,” Irwin continues. “It’s so amazing how sharp they are, their passion.”

To assess how concretely LKI confronts and counteracts the woeful state of Black youths’ education, consider materials Irwin provided MSR. The Legacy Keepers’ Sankofa Statement espouses to “provide an opportunity for scholars to look back at past human rights movements and strategies to learn and pull forward methods, strategies, and inspiration to establish new movements (big and small) relevant to present day struggles for human rights and social justice.”

Among salient points, scholars will “understand the ideology of global White supremacy and why it continues to exist to this day; [develop] a deeper understanding of historical liberation movements (e.g. modern day Civil Rights Movements, slave revolts, etc.) and [examine] events of the MAAFA (Transatlantic Slave Trade) and the impact it has on today’s world and our nation.”

Irwin further states that students will devise their own plans to interrupt the ongoing cycle of social injustice. “How they intend to change the condition or situation, they’ll think critically and come up with approaches to interruption. We want to equip and give them the tools to do that effectively.”

Irwin underscores that they will come to grips with the fact that an age-old system was put in place to disenfranchise them before they were born. “The more they know, the better they’ll understand this isn’t by accident.” Irwin adds, “It isn’t just about going to the tour stops. We want to supply knowledge that when applied will lead to personal empowerment for themselves and the community, individually and collectively.

“You don’t have to water it down. They understand. They get it. They just need to realize how they can make a difference in the trajectory, where we’re headed. I would like to see a lot more have the opportunity.”


For more information on Legacy Keepers, Inc. visit their website at

Dwight Hobbes welcomes reader responses to P.O. Box 50357, Mpls., 55403.