City Love

Love. Music. Inspiration. Positive Change.

Song for a Hero

Last month we had the honor of getting to present a workshop at the Progressive Education Network 2017 Conference in Boston and perform for the closing ceremony.  This year's theme was "amplifying student voice, agency, conscience, and intellect to create a more equitable, just, and sustainable world".  It was a powerful gathering and really exemplified the type of student-centered, holistic education that all students deserve.  Our wise friend Patrick once said, "the freedom of the teacher is the freedom of the student", and you can see the innovation, creativity, and responsiveness to student interests and needs that flourishes in classrooms where teachers truly have the freedom to make teaching an art.  

Jonathan Kozol was the closing keynote speaker, and has long been a hero of ours.  He has spent his life as a tireless champion of equal education for all, naming the "savage inequalities" of our education system and tracing the resegregation of American schools in the last 40 years after the initial gains following the Brown vs. the Board of Education ruling in 1954.  Kozol names the state by state dismantling of initiatives intended to integrate our schools in his book "The Shame of the Nation - The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America" and in his keynote he spelled out the ways the segregation of schooling has effectively created a two-tiered system in our country.  In this two-tiered system a majority of students of color and low income students will learn rote memorization, military school-esque discipline, and spend a majority of their days in school preparing for tests that do very little to cultivate the skills they will need to function in a dynamic and changing world, but that none-the-less determine whether their school will remain open and whether or not their teachers will be replaced.  Their wealthier, and often white, counterparts will spend their time in school building critical thinking skills, cultivating their creativity, exploring their interests, engaging in authentic projects that integrate a wide range of disciplines, and developing the social skills to advocate, collaborate and negotiate.  

After the concert we had the deep honor of sharing our song "Addition" with Mr. Kozol, which was inspired by his book "Shame of the Nation".  We felt so blessed to get to share it with him, and he seemed to enjoy it :)



We sing, "No child left behind, except the brown ones, and lots of poor ones, those schools don't have funds.  They have no text books, but they'll be tested, and now the school's closed. There goes the neighborhood.  Where do those kids go?  Those scores are too low.  And school's a joke so, those kids just don't go.  They feel forgotten, so they start hustling' to earn a living.  End up in prison.  Break down the walls, y'all.  Let's change the laws, y'all.  Teachers and students, we've got to raise the call 'black white and every color, it was division, now it's addition brother (sister).  We've got the numbers, it's time to add them up!  It's always better when we're together."

Yes Means Yes. No Means No.

It's horrifying.  Horrifying.  And much like police violence, it's been happening all along without much attention from the press until fairly recently.  One out of every six women will suffer from sexual assault in her lifetime.  It's unthinkable.  But that's how it's been.  That's how it is.  Unless you're in college, where one out of every four women will be sexually assaulted during her time on campus.  For all of our brothers reading this, please take those numbers in deep.  Next time you're walking down the street take a moment to grasp what it means that such an astounding number of the women walking by may be carrying the trauma of sexual assault with them each day.  Now imagine if that was your mother in her youth, or your sister.  

People around the world were utterly sickened reading the news about two successive instances of gang rape and murder (West Bengal and New Delhi.)  For those of us in the US, it hit closer to home when we saw the outrageous verdict of the Stanford case where a unanimous jury convicted Brock Turner of sexually assaulting an unconscious woman behind a dumpster, but a judge sentenced him to only 6 months in jail.   All this regardless of the fact that he expressed no remorse for what he had done.  On the contrary, Brock, his lawyer, and Brock's father did everything they could to discredit, blame, and silence the woman who was already profoundly traumatized from the assault.  But that's standard fare.  

Whether at Stanford, Indiana University (where student John Enochs was charged with two instances of flagrant sexual assault and received only a sentence of probation for 1 year), New Delhi or most anywhere in the world, women are blamed, doubted, silenced, stigmatized or threatened when they are victims of sexual assault or domestic violence.   70-90% of sexual assaults in the US go unreported for those very reasons.  

We wrote this song to stand with the women of the world, and with our Grandmothers, Mothers, Sisters, partners, friends, neighbors, and the daughters we may have one day.  We also wrote this song for our brothers around the world and we ask you to treat the women around you the way you would want another man to treat your Mother or your Sister.  Be respectful.  Be peaceful with your actions and words.  Always get consent.  Listen.  Learn.  Take some time to read the letter written by the powerful woman who was sexually assaulted at Stanford to get more insight on the experience of a victim of sexual assault.  Read "We Should All Be Feminists" by Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche to understand why we need to build a society that guarantees women and men equal respect, protections, rights, and freedoms.  Thank you for reading and thank you for listening.

Workshop on Positionality at Swarthmore - A Cypher is a Peace Circle


Posted by Swarthmore Intercultural Center on Thursday, March 24, 2016

We had the fortune of sharing a workshop at Swarthmore last month with some amazing students.  We were asked to focus on positionality and intersectionality - basically thinking about power dynamics that result from the ways we all see the world and one another differently as a result of our own race, gender, social class, religion, sexuality, ethnicity, language, and the power structures of our society.  It's like we each get a pair of special hologram glasses according to our overlapping identities, and it shapes all of our interactions because of what we can and can't see about ourselves and others.  

We've all got our blindspots, and some of us are likely to have a frightening number of blind spots because of the privilege we live in and the way society favors certain identities.  How do we take care of ourselves and our community in the face of microagressions? How do we then empathize with and call someone IN when they say or do something hurtful from a place of ignorance?  This was the work we were fortunate enough to dive into with these inspiring and thoughtful students.

We drew on the power of a hip hop cypher as a peace circle during our workshop.  Peace circles are rooted in indigenous ways of knowing that developed naturally and independently in various forms throughout the world and are gaining great momentum as tools for modern restorative justice efforts.  A circle is an inherently healing form, because there is room for all, and everyone sits as equals.  In peace circles everyone has a chance to speak, which naturally develops equality, respect for all voices, and each person's capacity for self-expression.  

Caselli has been practicing QiGong meditation for 6 years, and has heard again and again about how when you meditate in a circle with others it forms a "cauldron" or dan tien in the middle of the circle where the trapped 'negative' emotions you release can dissolve and neutralize.  That's how it felt.  Whether first-time rappers, novices or seasoned veterans, everyone shared verses about micro aggressions and it all dissolved in the middle.  We all felt the love.  A cypher is a peace circle.

Playing at the United Opt Out Conference

We had the honor of sharing our music at the United Opt Out Conference tonight.  Such an urgent issue, and so many inspiring educators working for positive change.  A time to reflect.

We are both fortunate to work at wonderful, progressive, independent (private) schools that really exemplify the quality of education that ALL children should receive.  Students and teachers at our schools don't need to worry about constant standardized testing or overcrowded classrooms, so they can focus on learning/teaching instead.  It is a truly beautiful and inspiring thing to witness and be a part of.  

Private schools like these can seem quite expensive, but actually cost much less per student than Pennsylvania's annual spending per prison inmate, let alone when you start to include the cost of growing police forces and building new jails.  (  

What would Pennsylvania look like if we invested in schools instead of prisons, and took low test scores as an indicator that schools needed more support instead of more tests?   Check out the work of Jesse Hagopian, Deborah Meier, Diane RavitchAlfie Kohn, and Susan Ohanian to learn more about the movement and why it is such a major issue in our times.  Check out our song, "More Than a Score", named after Jesse Hagopian's book, for a quick synopsis of some of the issues at play: 

New Video, "Show Some Love" - What if we loved Black lives as much as we love Black culture?

We're very excited to share our new video, "Show Some Love" that we made as part of the NPR Tiny Desk Concert Contest. The song is an invitation to consider what it would mean to love Black lives as much as we love Black culture....advocating for an end to police violence and mass incarceration as enthusiastically as we cheer on Lebron James and other extraordinary Black athletes, or following and supporting efforts towards equitable access to education, dignified employment and political representation in Black communities as passionately as we follow and support music that legendary Black artists like Beyonce', Miles Davis, Alicia Keys and Michael Jackson have given to the world. Imagine. Imagine. Please share if you would like others in your life to imagine this.