Courageous, Eccentric, Diverse: New Monuments for New Orleans

"Homer Plessy deserves a monument because he doesn’t have one and he’s brave and strong with words." —Jibril

"Crawfish need a monument because the crawfish are the food of the state. Crawfish are yummy to some people and lots of people eat crawfish here in New Orleans."  —Nataleigh

"Ellen deserves a monument because she is awesome. How do you feel about Ellen DeGeneres?" —Blake

Written by third graders at Homer A. Plessy Community School and filled with who and what they believe should replace the Confederate monuments in New Orleans, Courageous, Eccentric, Diverse is now available for preorder!

 

Ms. Aimee's third grade class spent two weeks selecting, researching, and writing with Big Class volunteers and staff. They also made original art pieces for the book, showing what their monuments would look like in place of the removed Confederate ones. From Ruby Bridges to alligators, Trombone Shorty to beignets, pelicans to Eli Manning, this book is a celebration of a new era of New Orleans's public space—space meant for all people.

Click here to preorder Courageous Eccentric, Diverse in time for the holiday season.

Workshops Coming in Fall: Good Troublemakers

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Big Class is coming back into classrooms with a new workshop series, situated in the present moment in our city and our schools. As schools plan to unify under one central school district by the summer of 2018, it is an opportune time for those who will be most affected by this plan–students–to voice their concerns, hopes, and dreams for how schools should look. 

A Good Troublemaker is a person who sees something that needs to be changed to make the world better, and does something to try to change it. There are lots of ways to be a Good Troublemaker; Big Class calls for change through writing.

This fall, Good Troublemakers workshops will be held in classrooms around the city to gather input from students ages 6-18 about their school and their thoughts about what schools in New Orleans can and should be. The writing produced in these workshops will contribute to a proposal for school redesign, written by young New Orleanians and published by Big Class.

Click here to apply and bring Good Troublemakers to your classroom. 

Workshops Coming in Fall: Spooky Stories

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As Big Class becomes 826 New Orleans in 2017, we will officially open the Haunting Supply Company–a one-stop-shop for the city's ghostly denizens. Inside our creative storefront, you'll find human disguises, pre-creaked floorboards, corporeal dust, and other staples for the supernatural. 

This fall, Big Class's Spooky Stories workshops will be coming to classrooms to write ghost stories inspired by images in and around New Orleans–the most haunted city in America. This collection of student writing will contribute to Big Class's first ever anthology of ghost stories, to be released this October.

Bring local writers to your classroom to lead your students in writing their own eerie tales about the Crescent City. Workshops will begin after Labor Day and run for most of September. These workshops are open to grades 1-12, and will be tailored to age groups accordingly!

Click here to apply.

In the News: History Between These Folds in the National Association of Black Journalists

By Daja Henry

NABJ Monitor

August 12, 2017

Carver High student Kiara Geiger ('18) autographs a copy of "History Between These Folds." (Mya Ebanks/Big Class)

Carver High student Kiara Geiger ('18) autographs a copy of "History Between These Folds." (Mya Ebanks/Big Class)

New Orleans, also known as the “Big Easy,” is a cultural hub that attracts millions of tourists each year. But growing up in New Orleans can be far from easy.

Big Class, a nonprofit that focuses on students’ self-expression, is lending a hand to the city’s youth. The organization partners with local schools to encourage students to find positive ways to express themselves through writing and art. 

This year, Big Class is working with the eleventh grade students of George Washington Carver High School, located in a neighborhood  where residents are still recovering from the damage of Hurricane Katrina. As part of Big Class’ Young Authors’ Book Project,  students wrote History Between These Folds, a collection of personal essays.

Read more here.

In the News: Big Class in Biz New Orleans

By Pamela Marquis

Biz New Orleans

July 2017

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On April 29, Nia Gates, a teen intern with Big Class, a local youth writing program, traveled to Washington, D.C., for the 2017 People’s Climate March. Gates read her original poem, “Hold Your Seats, The Tree Speaks” to an audience of 200,000.

“Having the opportunity to travel to D.C. and share a part of my world with the rest was an absolutely amazing experience,” she said. “I would have to say my favorite part of the day was the chance to meet the fellow artists and speakers who also stepped onto the stage either before or after me. I am an 18-year-old girl from New Orleans and I was able to travel hundreds of miles to march and perform with people who see a future of liberation just like myself.”

Gates was afforded that opportunity, in part, because of her involvement with Big Class. The writing program began in 2010 at Lincoln Elementary School in Marrero when Doug Keller and Heather Muntzer facilitated a series of successful writing projects for 43 first-grade students. Word of these projects soon spread throughout New Orleans and other teachers began reaching out to Keller to do the same kind of work in their classrooms.

Read more here.

Volunteer of the Month: July 2017

Congrats to our July Volunteer of the Month, Emma Schain! Emma has been a passionate and dedicated volunteer over the past few years, helping with everything from the Volunteer Leadership Krewe, to in-school projects, to being a Volunteer Captain at Dark and Stormy. We're sad to see Emma go on to new adventures, but are so grateful for her presence the past couple years. Thanks, Emma!

What first brought you to Big Class?
I originally saw a flier for Big Class while attending a writing workshop at the old studio space on St. Claude, but what really drew me in was: 1. a desire to work with young people directly 2. excitement about being part of a community focused on elevating the voices of New Orleans youth.

What keeps you coming back?
I am drawn over and over to the people, young and old(er), who consistently create spaces for kids to write, get published, and have their voices heard. I love the Big Class community, from the fellow volunteers to the staff to the kiddos. 

What are some skills you have that help you out at Big Class?
I've been a classroom teacher, so I guess that comes in handy when working with young people, but I actually feel like Big Class has taught me so many skills and made me a better contributor to our schools and organizations around the city.

What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced at Big Class?
This isn't really a challenge having to do with my work at Big Class, but I do consistently see and experience the tension between what our schools are under pressure to provide versus what we see external organizations like Big Class bring to students. I hope that Big Class can continue to drive our schools to consider how creative writing and the principles of student-led learning can be central to the classroom experience.

What are some great projects you’ve helped with? Tell us the story behind one of them if you can.
Working on the project at Carver was fulfilling for me in so many ways. I used to work at Carver and I currently support some of the teachers there, and the whole massive building is also just chock-full of friends, former colleagues, and the siblings and cousins of students I used to teach, so walking into that building once a week and then working on writing with kids was really meaningful. I also am so proud of the work our Carver students created; I feel so lucky to have been able to witness and contribute to small parts of that project. 

What are you up to when you’re not volunteering with us?
Well this is really bittersweet because I just hit my 4.5 year mark of living in New Orleans, of supporting teachers around the city through Teach For America, of teaching in schools, and of dancing at Dancing Grounds, and now I'm off to graduate school in California to pursue a master's degree in Education. I am so grateful for Big Class and the immense impact it has had on me as an individual, and I am excited to watch from the West Coast as it continues to shine more and more light on the kids of New Orleans and their stories.

In the News: Tapping New Orleans’ Haunted History To Give Student Voices A Boost

In the News: Tapping New Orleans’ Haunted History To Give Student Voices A Boost

GOOD Magazine
by Liz Dwyer

From the ghosts of tortured slaves at LaLaurie House in the French Quarter, to the spirits said to lurk in St. Louis Cemetery No. 1, New Orleans has a reputation as one of the most haunted places in the United States.