Toward Making Change: Beyond #BlackLivesMatter (One: Introduction)


by Susan Klimczak -

This is the first of a series of posts documenting the progression of a collaborative project at the South End Technology Center @ Tent City supported by the Harvard Graduate School of Education Dean's Equity Project.  The goal is to create a safe and creative space for high school and college youth to explore their identities and the issues that have come up for them with the #BlackLivesMatter movement through activities based on Hip Hop Culture.  Then, using the design engineering process, the youth will imagine a better and more just future, reating a participatory art and technology activity that will engage other youth during the 2015 Learn 2 Teach, Teach 2 Learn program.  

“If we want a society and culture that works for everyone, we need innovation in our relationships along with innovation in the STEM fields and STEM education.”   - Mel King

In our STEAM program at Learn 2 Teach, Teach 2 Learn, most often we start designing teaching activities by identifying the big ideas and skills connected to a technology we teach, be it computer and physical programming, electronics or digitial design and fabrication.  Then, we work to create a "cool" culturally relevant activity that engages the youth in those big ideas and skills.  

What excites me about this project is that we are "de-centering" or taking these "technologies of the earth" away from the focus of activity design and putting them in the service of "technologies of the heart." 

What has most engaged me as an educator for the past few years are these technologies of the heart --- those technologies that are necessary to bring out the best in humanity and enhance our relationships with each other --- and documenting how they support the STEAM education of our Boston youth of color.  (I've addressed my thoughts about this in some of my older blogposts: and 

During the school year at the South End Technology Center @ Tent City, we have two small afterschool programs for teenagers --- our Eek! electronics explorers klub and our Fab Stewards program.  During circle-up sessions, the youth teachers have been talking about they have been discouraged at school -- and even banned --- from talking about #BlackLivesMatter and participating in the nationwide school walkout.  Some even spoke about how their parents were fearful about talking about #BlackLivesMatter and asked them not to participate in any activities.  The lack meaningful opportunities at school or home to explore and express their ideas and feelings about the #BlackLivesMatter movement deeply saddened me because the courage and ideas of youth have historically been at the center of social movements here and across the planet.

I am also beginning to understand #BlackLivesMatter as a maker movement that indeed is seeking to create new technologies of the heart to address social justice issues.  So, in collaboration with graduate student Adia Wallace from the Technology and Innovation in Education program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education developed a successful proposal to the HGSE Dean Equity Fellowship to ask the question,

How can Science, Technology, Engineering and Math enrichment help youth of color meaningfully address issues related to #BlackLivesMatter in historically and culturally relevant ways in Boston, Massachusetts?

Through a series of blogposts here at the FabLearn Fellows website, I will document our process and progress and hopefully provide insights that will be of use to others who would like to initiate similar collaborative projects with youth.



Photos chosen by Adia Wallace to submit with our successful HGSE Dean Equity Fellowship Proposal 




Christa Flores's picture

Susan, I love that this post points out the powerful relationship between social media, access, connectivity and the self-reliant nature of making. Your work is always an inspiration.  Looking forward to the whole story.