Celebrating Black History Month: Geoffrey Canada


By: Lew Montgomery & Katie Gragnaniello, ACT Center for Equity in Learning

With the start of Black History Month, we’re looking back at a recent guest lecturer we had at ACT for our Fifth Annual Distinguished Lecture Series in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day—Geoffrey Canada. Canada has spent more than 30 years working with the creation and administration of the Harlem Children’s Zone (HCZ) which the New York Times called “one of the most ambitious social-policy experiments of our time.” In 2011, Canada was named to the TIME 100 list of most influential people in the world and, in March 2014, was named one of Fortune’s 50 greatest leaders in the world. A passionate education reform activist, ACT staff raved about his inspiring lecture. A true agent of change in the education sphere, Canada had plenty of knowledge to bestow on the ACT team.

Image 1During the event, Canada noted that poor schools with poor teachers only result in students achieving a poor academic experience. HCZ’s belief is “that the success of our children and the strength of the community go hand in hand. Their needs are inseparable and must be addressed together in order to break the cycle of generational poverty and give our kids a real shot at the American dream.” Through HCZ, Canada and his team have created a culture of success, albeit hard and expensive to replicate, the successful results are awe-inspiring. Curing poverty from all angles, allows poor schools to become rich. Rich in hopes and dreams of a better tomorrow and a pathway to better opportunity.

image 2“We need to find more creative vehicles of serving the disadvantaged youth in America,” Canada said at the event. Through the Center for Equity in Learning’s partnerships, networks, communities, and initiatives, we are helping underserved students and meeting them where they are. Canada pointed out that kids face challenges daily and you never know what will “speak” to a child. Is it arts, sports, language, poetry – that is what he says saved him. Canada recalled the book Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss and credited that book to his love of reading and learning. We remain inspired by Canada’s words and raw truth story-telling and have an immediate aspiration to do better. Creating real change for underserved students is the kind of impact we hope to have in the years to come.

To see Geoffrey Canada in action, check out his TED talk below.