“The Empowering Ourselves workshop was deep, enlightening and intellectually stimulating. It challenges our young people and empowers them to think critically about the history of their everyday language. The message was well received. We commend Jarrett for taking on such a controversial topic and encourage him to continue to make change in our community.”
-Elizabeth Wesley, History Teacher at Parkway Center City High School in Philadelphia, PA
“The Empowering Ourselves program offers us an unforgettable learning workshop that challenged us to seek not only a betterment of oneself, but of our surrounding society. Jarrett Mathis proved to be the consummate educator who successfully incorporated a historical and contemporary context with his own experiences that facilitated an unique and powerful connection with the audience. The authenticity of the program is a strength that led us to reflect and re-evaluate the weight the word carries and strive for its abolishment. Everyone left the discussion ready to combat the negative usage of the N-word, but most importantly, we left feeling empowered."
-Loweye Diedro, Political Chair of Columbia University’s Black Student Organization
“Thank you so much for visiting our school. We are a small college-prep school in the South Bronx. First, working with Mr. Mathis was very easy because he was able to modify the longer presentation to fit our class schedule. Secondly, he was very comfortable speaking in front of forty 10th graders. As a teacher with nine years of experience, I know that speaking in front of such a group can still be intimidating. I also appreciated his use of evidence both in his slides and in the discussion because it reinforced my emphasis on the use of evidence to prove an argument. Based on the feedback from both the students and administrative staff, we hope to have Mr. Mathis back to speak to other students.”
-Rachel Secrest, English Teacher at The Bronx Academy of Letters in the Bronx, NY
“We are so grateful to Empowering Ourselves for coming to empower our eagles! This workshop during our Black History Month celebration was a major success. He was extremely professional, personable and simply entertaining. He did not disappoint. Mr. Mathis spoke tour tenth grade males and truly provoked the thought of our young men.
From his provocative clips of Richard Pryor to heat melting scenes of lynchings and slavery it is an experience that my students still vividly speak of. I was truly impressed with Mr. Mathis after he left and my young men were able to pass their knowledge to their female counterparts who were not invited to the session. They spoke confidently as they repeated new knowledge and in casual conversations thereafter checked each other for using the n-word.
There are no words to describe the looks on their faces and the light bulbs that beamed above their heads as they learned of their royal heritage and made connections from Africa to Harlem.
We cannot wait to have Mr. Mathis return to our campus and will continue to sing his praises until he does.”
-Tiffany Jackson, English Teacher at Cesar Chavez High School in Washington, D.C.
“His presentation was an invaluable experience for our students. Through power point slides and movie and video clips, Jarrett walked our students through the use of the N-word from slavery times into the present. He showed the students the violence and degradation that went with this word in the past. He showed them inspiring examples of African Americans resisting this label. And he helped them understand the debate surrounding the use of the n-word today—especially by rappers. Jarrett’s research was amazing—he has found powerful quotes and images that reach students, and he gently guides students to think more deeply about the impact and meaning of the word. He doesn’t talk down to students—they rose to Jarrett’s high level of discourse. He asked difficult questions, but gave students the prompts they needed to get to the answers. Jarrett asked for every student’s name who volunteered to speak. No matter what they said or offered, Jarrett found a way to make that student feel heard and valued in the discussion.
The students immediately perceived that Jarrett believed strongly in his message and they were unusually calm and focused during the presentation. Afterwards, one student shared with the class that he saw Jarrett as a role model for himself. “He just graduated from college, but he’s already found a way to do something positive and make a difference in the world.” My students need to see people like Jarrett to know that history is alive today, and that the way we treat others matters. They also need to think about the music and language around them and realize that they don’t have to wait until they grow up to speak up. They can make a difference now. Jarrett embodies that activism and sensitivity.
After learning about the history of discrimination for African Americans and Native Americans in class, we have asked our students to become activists. Some are writing persuasive letters to raise money for the United Negro College Fund or the American Indian College Fund. Other students are looking at the culture that surrounds them and raising awareness. Some sports fans are writing to teams with Native American mascots, asking them to stop using their logos. But the largest and most enthusiastic group of students are writing to rap musicians and asking them to think about the impact of using the n-word on kids. These are my most inspiring letters. The letters reflect the ideas raised in Jarrett’s workshop. And the students are using the Empowering Ourselves Inc. website for material. My students will be sharing these letters with parents and with students in other grades, and the Black Alliance will be bringing the n-word discussion to their spring assembly. Jarrett’s message continues to spread in our school.
I’m grateful to Jarrett for speaking to my students. I am in awe of the research that went into his presentation—its scope and depth. But my students walked away with even more: role model for caring about the world and taking action.
Thanks so much, Jarrett, for raising awareness in our school.”
-Melicca McCormick, 8th grade Humanities Teacher at The New York City Lab Middle School.
“I highly recommend Jarrett Mathis' ‘Empowering Ourselves’ as a result of his recent workshop at Frederick Douglass Academy V for 250 students. Mr. Mathis was prompt, prepared & a personable professional. He was responsible for researching historical information, comparing it to contemporary media, incorporating analysis from past workshops, developing an interactive PowerPoint, and ultimately presenting orally; he did an outstanding job. As a special educator trained to teach to diverse learning styles and different levels of knowledge, I quickly recognized how Jarrett's teaching style was effective. He incorporated images, video, highlighted text, continuously solicited student feedback, and made references to things they related too. I was most impressed that his demeanor displayed patience and a genuine care for the children. As a result, our students rose to the higher level of ideas and discussion that he proposed.
His vision, leadership, devotion to the youth, is evident as he conveyed a strong engaging message full of conviction about self-respect, respect for women, and other members of your own community as he addressed the use of dehumanizing words/slang. His challenge was echoed by our students that afternoon as they wanted to continue the discussion and while some declared no further use of dehumanizing words. He most definitely planted a good seed in the good soil of our young people. They were engaged and received it wholeheartedly. The students and staff welcome him back.Thank you, Jarrett for a job well done!"
-Sherry C. White, 6th and 7th grade Special Education Teacher at Frederick Douglass Academy V Middle School in the Bronx, New York.
“The Empowering Ourselves workshop was powerful, thought provoking and penetrated the hearts and minds of our boys at Eagle Academy for Young Men in the South Bronx. Jarrett conducted the Empowering Ourselves workshop during our Eagle Day which focused on Identity. He challenged our African American and Latino boys modern understanding of the N word through the use of cultural and historical information via a multimedia presentation that highlighted popular figures, music, symbols and events in African American history. I would recommend this workshop to anyone who is working with black and brown youth.”
-Carmel Renee Macklin, Global History and Special Education Teacher at Eagle Academy for Young Men in the Bronx, NY.