Personal Journey

Vanessa Brown

Because Germantown High School was built in an area that is so richly entrenched in its history and, because it has been witness to an area that has seen integration, toleration, industrialization and social activism at its best and worst, it seemed like a perfect place to use the curriculum to bring forward a legacy of social justice and action as an indigenous part of the culture of the community. I did not have to be at Germantown very long before I realized that a more thoughtful and purposed approach to education was in order for this school or at least for the students that I met. Action, as I saw it, was an integral part of being American.

Consequently this project/inquiry has been grounded in my belief that young people of this generation have an obligation to carry out this legacy so as to ensure a life of opportunity and access for themselves and for those around them. No less important than a reverence for this history is my own experience of growing up in a nearby north central Philadelphia neighborhood in the sixties and seventies.

I was a young teen at a time when many adults shuddered at the sound of the word "relevant." Education had to be relevant. Religion had to be relevant. Morals and mores had to be relevant. Parenting and sexual orientation were all measured by this relevancy. I attended, with pride, the Black Panthers Constitutional Convention. We were going to re-make America; construct a more relevant government for the people and by the real people. When I walked out of my high school in protest of the absence of African American history classes in the general curriculum, I joined others in demanding a curriculum that was holistic, truthful and relevant to my existence as an African in America. Action, as I saw it, was an integral part of being American. I had the right of expectancy and school/education had become my most valuable tool to apprise me of those rights. Now, almost four decades later, those beliefs provide the framework for the pedagogy I promote in the classroom.