The Jubilee School's Publishing Revolution
By Love Now Magazine
Edited by Lanaa Dantzler, Former Jubilee School Student
Tucked away in Philadelphia’s vibrant Southwest Philadelphia, The Jubilee School, defies conventional educational norms. Founded by the visionary Karen Falcon, it serves as an emblem of transformative learning — a place where students are creatively unshackled from circumscribed curriculums.
In a heartfelt discussion with Jos Duncan Asé, Karen Falcon pulls back the curtain on the inception of the Jubilee School’s Publishing House, a mission that’s spanned more than twenty years.
Accepting The Ideas Of The Young
“The cornerstone of Jubilee is recognizing the child’s thirst for knowledge and valuing their voice,” says Karen. This ethos is embedded in every corner of the school. Unlike traditional educational systems, where curricula are predefined, Jubilee School fosters an environment where learning emerges from students’ innate curiosity, questions, and discussions.
One of the most poignant examples of this student-driven approach is the “Children’s Campaign Against Gun Violence.” After the tragic loss of a former student to gun violence, a profound discussion emerged among the children: What can we do about gun violence? In a culmination of visions, the children decided to protest. While there were apprehensions due to the school’s small
size, a student aptly remarked, “Gandhi started a march by himself and hundreds followed him.” Following the successful march, they decided to launch a full-fledged campaign. This student-led initiative saw Jubilee speaking at schools across Philadelphia, city councils, and even consulting the United Nations.
As an effort to further amplify their declarations, Jubilee students decided it was time to bring their message to screen. After securing the patronage of Louis Massiah, founder of Scribe Video Center, the children kicked off production. In 2006, they completed their first short film, “Walls and Doors: Inspiration From Our Elders,” featuring students and freedom fighters, it chronicles the passing of torches between activists. “They put down table cloth and now it’s our turn to put the silverware down.”
Publishing As Proactive Activism
Putting perseverance into practice, with the growth of the school, came the expanding of their approach. That growth blossomed into what we now know as, The Jubilee School’s Publishing House. “Their vision for the ‘Resist’ book or the ‘MOVE’ historical marker at Cobbs Creek Parkway and Osage, which the students campaigned for the installation of in 2017, emerged from candid dialogues with the students,” Karen recounts. In lieu of imposing learning, the journey of book publishing is about collective discovery.
Karen and her students began exploring history through its personal accounts. However, in their exploration they encountered several inaccuracies.
When a British film overlooked the Niagara Movement’s significance, it sparked an epiphany in the class. “It was an awakening,” Karen recalls. The students did their own research and published a book about the movement.
Fast forward to today, the school takes pride in five student-penned textbooks, with a sixth on voting rights in production. Destitute of revisionist history or pernicious meddling, and yet, these are more than just books. They’re an extension of Jubilee’s values, with a business plan crafted by the students themselves. Central to it is a simple yet compelling vision statement: “to expose the truth.”
Lanaa Dantzler, 15, a former student, weighs in, “The world needs to recognize the potential in our youth. We’re not just passively existing; we’re shaping our stories. The nurturing environment at Jubilee lets children realize they can be authors, filmmakers, or whatever they dream.”
Young voices from the current students behind the publishing company echo the sentiment:
Morgan Carter, 11, shares, “We envisioned the publishing house as a beacon of truth, especially for our peers who believe some narratives are perfect.”
Jayla Glover, 12, chimes in, “The journey has been thrilling. But the stories that resonate most are those of resilience and change.”
Benjamin Falcon,12, emphasizes the need for genuine narratives, saying, “History often gets distorted. At Jubilee, we aim to present it as it is.”
Dantzler, reflects on her time at Jubilee: “The creative nourishment you get at Jubilee is unparalleled. Ms. Karen’s support is unwavering.” She emphasizes the need to acknowledge and foster youth creativity, recalling her own journey of discovering historical figures like Claudette Colvin.
The current students, including Morgan Carter, Carter Hasbeen, Jayla Glover, Tiana Albright, Chanel Lee, and Benjamin Falcon, have this shared belief. Jubilee’s textbooks are made with the intention of not only educating others but broadening the idea. Giving children the creative affirmation to make social change, fosters strong self confidence. A self confidence that sticks with them long after they graduate. In sharing their work, Jubilee intends to inspire the youth and educators globally. Setting and sharing the table of self affirmation for generations to come.
As Karen concludes, “You can tell your own story,” capturing the spirit of Jubilee School’s transformative journey. The school and its publishing house stand as vivid reminders of the boundless potential within every young individual.
Concluding her interaction, Karen offers an insight that encapsulates Jubilee’s essence, “Everyone has a story. It’s up to us to tell it.”
The Jubilee Voices have plenty of stories to come including, the aforementioned sixth textbook on the way and a new short film in development. In order to support Jubilee in their creative enterprise, you can donate to the independent school on GoFundMe. Keep up with the students ongoing social justice work via Jubilee’s website and social media.