TAX DEDUCTIBLE DONATIONS: If you want to make a large donation please message us for information on how to submit your donation through, Antenna, our New Orleans based 501c3 non-profit fiscal sponsor.
The Black Schoolhouse
We’re building a 21st century schoolhouse to expand our Black radical art programming into a community center providing civic engagement activities for New Orleans' 7th Ward.
1 ) Who We Are & What We've Done
The Black School (TBS) is an experimental art school teaching Black/PoC students and allies to become agents of change through art workshops on radical Black politics and public interventions that address local community needs. TBS was founded by Joseph Cuillier III and Shani Peters in 2016. With socially engaged artists, designers, and educators working at the intersections of K-12/university teaching, art, design, and activism, all TBS programming is structured around our core principles of Black Love, self-determination, and wellness.
• IMPACT: Since 2016, we have served over 400 students, facilitated over 100 workshops and classes, produced three Black Love Fests , collaborated with more than 40 professional artists, trained and employed 16 design apprentices, and partnered with over 50 organizations.
• SCHOOLHOUSE: With this foundation of programmatic success, we are now working towards our ultimate goal to move back to Joseph’s hometown and build a Black Art School in New Orleans' 7th Ward.
• SOCIALLY RELEVANT EDUCATION: What does it look like to center Black love in a learning space? We relate to our students as extended family and not a social problem to be corrected. All of our programs are customized for each group we engage. Everything we do is ultimately about honoring our ancestors who loved us so much that they gave us everything we need. It's in their art, it's in their writings, and in our bodies.
• ECOSYSTEM/HYBRIDITY: Over time, we’ve established the school in this 3-part ecosystem: an art school, festival, and youth-staffed design firm.
○ - School -
The school is based on a workshop model designed to teach critical thinking and civic engagement through art making. After answering the questions “What do you love about your community?” and “What do you want to change about your community?” participants address a community issue through art. We start with knowledge of self and love of community.
○ - Studio -
The Black School: Studio is an art and design firm in which we train youth in paid apprenticeships to execute real-world client work with the long-term intention of self-sustaining programming through earned revenue. This program not only prepares Black and Brown youth for practical, well paying creative careers, but it also equips them with the political consciousness/activist tactics to become change makers.
○ - Festival -
Black Love Fest is a free one-day celebration that allows us to publicly share students' artworks back with the community. It includes art exhibits, music performances, installations by professional artists, food, vendors and workshops. The festival demonstrates on a large scale the vision of the world we want to live in, a world centered on Black love.
2 ) Where & Why
It’s our own families histories which actually grounds us in this work. Shani’s father taught Black Studies in Michigan for 50 years and has a legacy of hundreds of students who he impacted deeply. After returning to New Orleans from WWII, Joseph’s grandfather, Joseph Cuillier Sr. earned his bachelor's in education from HBCU Xavier University back when the city didn’t even hire Black teachers. Years later in 1989, Lincoln High, previously “Rosenwald" High, where he taught and became principal, was actually renamed in his honor.
Some of the history we think of the most in terms of building a home for school is the legacy of Booker T. Washington. He emerged from emancipation with the belief that education would be the building blocks for Black folks to construct better lives. With the help of wealthy philanthropist Julius Rosenwald, they built 5,000 Black schoolhouses across the South, always in collaboration with the local communities. Our family history and its direct connection to the legacy of Black school building as a means for self liberation inspires The Black School to move from its current mobile structure to an independent Black institution of its own. We will do this by building a 21st century schoolhouse as a community center serving New Orleans' 7th Ward and surrounding areas. This structure will be complete with workshop spaces, a media lab to house TBS: Studio, a gallery, a reading/meditation room, a kitchen, an artist-in-residence space, and an open access community garden. Imagine being in a school designed by artists, where the school is the artwork and the classrooms feel more like meditation spaces than the prisons so many of our schools are built like today.
We started planning our move from NYC to New Orleans about 4 years ago when we found out we were pregnant with our daughter. We were already making frequent trips to see family, and the idea to establish our own building flowed from there. We’ve already started programming with Xavier University and we have official plans to partner with the New Orleans African American Museum, the New Orleans Museum of Art, The Community Book Center, and Antenna. We are in contact with many more New Orleans based artists, educators, and organizers, and look forward to establishing a broad network of partnerships as we complete our transition to the City.
3 ) What We Need
For Phase 1, we need to raise the first $60K to purchase land, conduct participatory design workshops with local partners and community members, and produce architectural drawings in collaboration with a New Orleans-based Black architects Bryan C. Lee Jr. and Whawn Allen , and internationally recognized sustainable architecture firm, LOT-EK . We'll use new architectural technologies like modularity and upcycling to build a working prototype for promoting community-built Black radical learning spaces, as well as, low-cost solutions for housing displacement. In the legacy of the Booker T’s schools, we want to publish our building plans to promote the creation of more spaces like ours.
For Phase 2, we need to raise an additional $150K for the permits, fees, building materials, construction.
For Phase 3, we need to raise the last $100k for equipment, early programming, like furniture design workshops, and staffing. In addition to grants and partnerships, revenue from our student staffed design firm and sales from a growing suite of learning tools, merchandise, and art, will sustain our programming beyond the build.
CALL TO ACTION
Do you want to be a part of a radical shift in education and support Black institution building? If so, you can help by DONATING and SHARING our campaign with your networks.
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