Nonprofit launches social justice literacy program for kids in the south Bronx

Student 2
Third grader Genesis Negron participates in Little Woke Activist.
Courtesy of Yarlene Negron

In May, nonprofit Start Lighthouse launched its initiative to distribute 300 books and literacy kits to students at P.S. 5 in Port Morris. On Monday, it expanded its offerings with a new program.

Lighthouse saw the tension brewing in this country and realized that many students do not learn about themselves or race in school. Therefore, it created a six-week initiative for 10 elementary school students in the south Bronx titled “Little Woke Activist.”

It was founded by educators Anya Morales and Rina Madhani and fellow teachers, Snigdha Baduni and Yackira Rodolis, who serve as the directors of literacy and Soi’more Cherry, the facilitator. The children will learn about identity, community, how they feel about oneself, culture and traditions.

The guest speakers throughout the program will include Yangsook Choi, Kobi Yamada, Calvin Alexander Ramsey, Caridad De
La Luz, Kimberly Drew and Ramon Contreras.

“There’s a misconception that children of any age won’t be able to grasp the idea of social justice,” Cherry said.

So far, the staff has been impressed with the youngsters. The kids spoke about their names, if they have been embarrassed by their name, what it means to them, drew self portraits and compared their skin color to food. One kid even said his skin is similar to toast and it made him feel warm.

“It started out as a conversation and then they really got to share their thoughts,” Cherry explained. “It didn’t seem like school work. It has been effortless.”

Rodolis explained the parents have found the program to be beneficial. Parents Jacklyn Vicro and Yarlene Negron spoke with the Bronx Times about how Little Woke Activist has helped their kids.

Negron of Morissania has a daughter Genesis in the third grade at Success Academy and felt it was important for her to look at her identity.

“I thought she would like it,” Negron said. “It’s good for kids to be involved at a young age and learn about activism and what is right and wrong.”

Genesis spoke about what she likes about herself and her name. She knew her mom chose that named because of the bible and it that it means the beginning.

Little Woke Activist allows her to communicate freely, her mom said. She enjoys talking, meeting new people, cracking jokes and loves her hair.

“I think with this program she will express herself better and understand people’s feelings better,” Negron shared.

Vicro of Castle Hill has a daughter Natalie Balbuena in second grade at P.S. 36 at 1070 Castle Hill Ave. Normally Balbuena does not go to summer camp, so this was a perfect opportunity.

Like Negron, Vicro loves how this gives her daughter a chance to learn about herself and be independent.

“I think they’re teaching them stuff they don’t get taught at school,” Vicro said. “The program is trying to show them who they are. I hope this program grows because it’s really beneficial for the kids.”

More from Around NYC