The Tobago Centre at the Lost Lyrics’ Alternative Education Conference

The following article is reposted with permission from the Sway Magazine blog

Lost Lyrics hosts alternative education conference

7 June 2012
By Tendisai Cromwell

This past weekend, the alternative education initiative Lost Lyrics hosted the conference The Roots of the Rose which marked their five-year anniversary. On Saturday June 2, Ryerson University’s Student Learning Centre was bustling with attendees eager to share in the discussion on the symposium’s theme: Building an Alternative Education Movement. Ideas were shared through workshops and lectures on hip hop education, indigenous knowledge, understanding money, gender and race, among other topics. This conference facilitated meaningful dialogue between educators, community leaders, artists and community members. It also presented a profound challenge to conventional thought about education and provided the intellectual tools to re-conceptualize it, particularly for people of colour. The following day at the Art Gallery of Ontario, the conference culminated in the Live Report Card presentation by the graduates of the Lost Lyrics program in the form of art, music and dance.


Dr. Darrick Smith is an American educator and founder of the alternative education program TryUMF (Trying to Uplift My Folks).
He gave a passionate lecture where he explored mainstream and alternative forms of education, capitalism and social justice issues with emphasis on the continued struggle of people of colour in navigating the education system.

Spontaneous jam sessions took place outside of the lecture halls and classrooms. Nothing could more naturally embody one of Lost Lyrics’ aims — the marriage of education with various forms of artistic expression.

Pastor David Lewis-Peart and Sarah Beech of Seed II Soil facilitated an interactive workshop exploring the meaning of money. They challenged popular notions and debunked myths about its value with the aim of encouraging critical thought about people’s attitudes towards money.

As part of a course, four former students of University of Toronto Professor Jacqui Alexander (pictured below) were required to pick a plant of personal significance in order to explore diasporic experiences. They each revealed their individual experiences of this process which — in becoming a spiritual journey — transcended their academic goals.

An attendee displays jujube seeds passed around by a speaker as she spoke about what the tree meant for her in the exploration of her Korean ancestry. As an amusing anecdote, she recounted being made to drink jujube tea as a child which her grandmother believed would tame her spirited nature.

Professor Jacqui Alexander (right) expressed complete gratitude for everyone’s attendance explaining in good humour that the dropout rate for her course had been high. She is also the Founding Director of the Tobago Center for the Study and Practice of Indigenous Spirituality and along with a dedicated team, she is currently undertaking a project to grow and catalogue medicinal plants in Tobago.


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