Detroit Independent Freedom Schools: Continuing to Offer Educational Alternatives to Youth, Adults, Broader Community

photos by Dareese Cobb

This summer the Detroit Independent Freedom Schools Movement (DIFS) will again partner with the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History to develop a vibrant vegetable garden space on the Museum grounds. The summer program follows a second full year of weekly Freedom School classes, offering art, African American history, dance, science, math, fab lab technology, drumming and more.


To complement the ongoing youth programs, this year DIFS initiated an adult “Freedom University.” Twice a month adults gathered for conversations and learning sessions while children met in Freedom School.  Adult classes included the history of African American farming and land use, a report on recent developments in South Africa, instructions for sustainable water and energy use, reflections on how African Americans are portrayed in popular media, and research-based methods for teaching children to read.


DIFS also continued to educate the broader community about policies in public education that will impact our children. They conducted public forums, produced a statement opposing the state-sponsored Third Grade Reading legislation, and offered the following series of demands as the basis for creating healthy learning environments in community-controlled schools. –ed.


Detroit Independent Freedom Schools Demands…

  1.  Employment of an adequate number of teachers and end of classroom overcrowding. Limit student enrollment per class to 20-25, or less if warranted by special needs.

  2. Assignment of teachers according to the subjects/disciplines they are certified to teach.

  3. Dismantle the DPSCD (Detroit Public Schools Community District) Command Center. End the militarized, oppressive surveillance of our children, parents and community members. No other city in Michigan has subjected its children to this level of police control. First a racist system fails to educate our children, then it labels and portrays our children as enemies of the dominant society who have to be technologically monitored, documented, and finally imprisoned. We object to the way our children are being portrayed and labeled.

  4. End the school-to-prison pipeline that takes our children away from our communities during their most important developmental years as young adults.

  5. Promotion of administrators based on proven competence as educators.

  6. End of excessive, oppressive, futile testing of our children– methods that have been proven ineffective, and only advance the profits of test-making corporations

  7. Reinstate the arts, music, and physical education as vital components of our children’s educational experience.

  8. Encourage engagement of parents in the schools, as self-determining leaders and co-creators of educational programs with teachers and administrators.

  9. End the deceptive relationships with foundations. Expose the fraudulent role played by foundations like Skillman, which undermine community self-governance in order to facilitate corporate control. Skillman formerly collaborated with the appointed Emergency Manager in the dismantling and embezzlement of the Detroit public school system.

  10. Insist that public school environments be clean, properly maintained, safe, and respectful of the human dignity of all who pass through them.

  11. Reinstate the democratic, representative powers of the elected School Board by ending the rule of the state-appointed Financial Review Commission. Work towards ever-greater involvement of the neighborhoods and communities in formulating school programs and policies.


For more information and to see how you can volunteer to support freedom schools in your neighborhood, contact


DIFS Demands courtesy of Detroit Independent Freedom Schools Movement

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