Q&A with Aiyeshia Hudson-Wong, executive director, Liberation Journeys
General Operating Support
Location: Blue Island, Illinois
Liberation Journeys received funds in November 2022 to support the organization’s operations.
Founded in 2021, the mission of Blue Island-based Liberation Journeys is to design experiential learning opportunities that affirm students’ global Black identity and liberate their minds and bodies.
Follow @liberationjrnys / @liberationjourneys: Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter
Q: How do you see the arts/culture/humanities as being essential?
Aiyeshia Hudson-Wong: Exposure to the humanities is central to identity development, especially for young people. When I was a high school teacher, the classes I loved designing and teaching the most examined the intersections of history, culture, and art. My students’ aha moments, complex connections to the real-world, and insight about themselves and their communities were most potent in these learning spaces. The humanities also helps young people develop rich, diverse worldviews that allow them to see the interconnectedness in our humanity and a sense of belonging.
Q: What is the most important thing people should know about your work?
Aiyeshia Hudson-Wong: Liberation Journeys partners with educators and middle and high school students to co-design liberating learning experiences that affirm students’ identity and dismantle anti-Black racism in schools. Our enrichment curriculum includes texts and experiential learning that center racial justice and intersectional approaches to examining inequity. We teach educators and students how to use liberatory design as a framework for solving school culture challenges. Our programming also includes experiential learning trips around Chicago and annual summer trips – national and international.
What makes us stand out from other SEL programs, experiential learning programs, and anti-racist education organizations is that we treat students as co-designers of the curriculum and the learning experiences we offer schools. We believe students should play an active and consistent role in creating their educational experiences in and beyond school.
Q: How did you arrive at doing what you do?
Aiyeshia Hudson-Wong: As a classroom teacher for 12 years and school leader for three of those years, it’s been a long road filled with community, joy, love, pain, tears, self-doubt, and self-determination to develop the audacity to launch Liberation Journeys. During my time working in schools, one of the most consistent needs I’ve observed is the need for more student voice in how we design learning experiences and school culture. Addressing this need was my core motivation for launching Liberation Journeys. My most impactful and rewarding years as an educator resulted from collaborating with young people to co-create student-centered learning experiences and school initiatives. My most challenging years – the years marked with the most pain, tears, and self-doubt – were the ones where students had little to no agency over their school experience and lacked a sense of belonging.
Q: Who makes your work possible?
Aiyeshia Hudson-Wong: Middle and high school student leaders and educators committed to centering student voice are at the heart of our work. We’ve partnered with schools on Chicago’s South Side – including Gary Comer College Prep and CICS Global Leaders Initiative – to pilot our curriculum and experiential learning trips during the 2022 and 2023 school year. Our board members are current and former Chicago teachers and school leaders, and they’ve been instrumental in leading our vision and program design. We’ve also been fortunate to build relationships with funders who provide financial resources as well as capacity building support during our startup phase, such as NewSchools Venture Fund, IMC Foundation, 4.0 Schools, and AMPT: Advancing Nonprofits.
Aiyeshia Hudson-Wong’s Suggested Readings List:
- Decolonizing Wellness by Dalia Kinsey
- Assata Taught Me by Donna Murch
- Freedom is a Constant Struggle by Angela Y. Davis
- Abolition. Feminism. Now. by Angela Y. Davis, Gina Dent, Erica R. Meiners, and Beth E. Richie
About The Illinois Humanities Grantee Partner Spotlight
Illinois Humanities highlights the work of our Community Grants program partners through our “Grantee Spotlight.” It shines the light on our grantee partner’s work, offering details about the organization and the funded project, as well as a Q&A with a team member at the organization. More: ILHumanities.org/Spotlight
About Illinois Humanities
Illinois Humanities, the Illinois affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, is a statewide nonprofit organization that activates the humanities through free public programs, grants, and educational opportunities that foster reflection, spark conversation, build community and strengthen civic engagement. We provide free, high-quality humanities experiences throughout Illinois, particularly for communities of color, individuals living on low incomes, counties and towns in rural areas, small arts and cultural organizations, and communities highly impacted by mass incarceration. Founded in 1974, Illinois Humanities is supported by state, federal, and private funds.
Learn more at ilhumanities.org and on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn @ILHumanities.