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Posts Tagged ‘ Rajlakshmi De ’

Day 9: The Storytelling of Trust

Monday, May 16th, 2011

By Rajlakshmi De

Tell me a story, from the heart.

We stopped in Selma, Alabama today and heard from Mrs. O’Neill, a community member who was active during the civil rights era. The first few minutes of our session with her were very formal and factual, but as we progressed, Mrs. O’Neill answered our questions with increasing insight. The more trust we built, the deeper she delved.

The economic situation is bleak, she said. Races have segregated into separate churches, separate schools. Being ostracized is a concern.

I was really moved by her descriptions of present-day disparities, and was also compelled by how her openness was such an integral component of our understanding of Selma.

How often are we open and honest about the current state of situations? How much are we withholding?

When I think of poverty, I don’t think of a statistic. I think of the frail men who cart me around in rikshas, tensing their leg muscles as they peddle me along, so that I may pay them less than a dollar’s worth of currency. I think of how tempting it is to overpay them. I also think of how that would do little to reduce systemic poverty.

When I think of girls’ empowerment, I don’t think of the illiteracy rate or the prevalence of HIV. I think of stories—of gender roles, of oppressive environments, of strong women.

If society is not engaged in world affairs, in civics, in the future, maybe we could all benefit from more genuine conversations, more storytelling from the heart. I am hopeful that we can make progress, but we need a reason to care.


Day 7: Rajlakshmi De

Sunday, May 15th, 2011


Day 4: Student Teachings

Wednesday, May 11th, 2011

By Raj De

Many of the 1961 Freedom Riders were students, much like me, yet they taught the world about courage, about injustice. Today, a young school teacher spoke to us in Rock Hill, SC and she emphasized that “Students are teachers,” using the Freedom Riders as an example.

Tonight at dinner, I had a fascinating conversation with three of my fellow student riders about how to infuse creativity into the American educational system—divergent learning that encompasses diverse solutions, focusing on civic innovation instead of purely service, understanding of self, and emphasis on valuing each student’s opinion. Feeling no barriers, we bounced ideas off one another and I found myself learning a lot from my fellow students, while adding to the discussion as well. Our model of conversation was even an example of one of our proposed methods of educational reform—exchange of ideas between students, “Students as teachers.” We were practicing what we had heard in Rock Hill, without even realizing it.

Our insistence on positive educational change was particularly special to me because of the work I am doing this summer. I am interning at the Spring Creek Literacy Project, an educational summer camp for middle school girls in the rural mountain community of Madison County, NC, a region where high school graduation rates can run as low as 50%. The project is only a year old and is still very malleable, so I can bring my own ideas to fruition. I left our dinner conversation with concrete ideas to apply within the Spring Creek project and with a renewed energy for social change.

If I could successfully implement some of the ideas we talked about at dinner into the Spring Creek curriculum, the Spring Creek girls would approach learning as integrated with teaching each other, with reflecting, with problem solving, with passion and spirit, without boundaries—“Students as teachers.”


Day 2: Mother’s Day Recollections by Raj De

Monday, May 9th, 2011


The Chronicle

Wednesday, May 4th, 2011

Duke Sophomore to Participate in Civil Rights Tribute
By Michael Shammas

Beginning May 6, sophomore Rajlakshmi De will take a stand for social justice. Fifty years ago, more than 400 Americans risked their lives for the same cause. Read more…


News & Record on the North Carolina Students

Sunday, April 24th, 2011

College Students to Re-Enact Freedom Rides for 50th Anniversary

GREENSBORO — Four North Carolina college students, including an N.C. A&T junior, are among 40 students selected to participate in marking the 50th anniversary of the Freedom Riders. Read more…


Meet the Riders!

Thursday, April 21st, 2011


Student Rider: Rajlakshmi De

Thursday, April 7th, 2011

Duke University
Durham, North Carolina
Hometown: Oak Ridge, North Carolina

Watch the full episode. See more Freedom Riders.