The 2013 Urban Sites Network Conference, hosted by UAB’s Red Mountain Writing Project (RMWP) and the 21st Century Literacies Conference, will take place in downtown Birmingham April 26-27. The theme for the conference will be “Writers of Social Justice: How One Pen Can Change the World,” chosen in conjunction with the ongoing commemoration of the 1963 Birmingham Civil Rights Movement.
The conference will consist of two days of roundtables, workshops and panels on topics to include the personal experiences of Civil Rights activists and discussions on social justice literature and writing in the classroom. School visits and tours of historical Birmingham sites, such as the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church and Kelly Ingram Park, will also take place on Friday, the 26th. Speakers at the conference will include Steve Zemelman, cofounder and director of the Illinois Writing Project, and Judge Helen Shores Lee, daughter of civil rights attorney Arthur Shores, among others.
Luisa Banchoff, national student poet for the Southeast region, will also be in attendance, and is enthusiastic about the events of the upcoming Urban Sites Network Conference. Banchoff, a senior at Washington-Lee High School in Arlington, Virginia, will visit James A. Davis Middle School in Bessemer on Friday for a “mini workshop” with two seventh grade classes, sharing her love for writing with the students. She will also participate in the workshops at the conference on Saturday, April 27, emphasizing the role teachers have played in nurturing her passion as a teenage poet.
“I find that when I’m reading something, I ask a lot of questions,” says Banchoff, when asked for her thoughts on the power that words have in affecting social change. “Reading and writing create a sense of inquisitiveness and a desire to ask questions. That kind of curiosity and drive is really important for social change. … Writing and words give a sense of unity and unite a movement for a common cause.”
Banchoff states that she does feel a personal connection to this year’s Urban Sites Network Conference theme, having been involved in activism for years. She helped to found a social justice youth group at her church in 2010 and has been a Girl Scout for a decade. She says that she looks forward to exploring Birmingham and participating in the conference.
The RMWP, founded in 2004, is a local affiliate of the National Writing Project, which strives to provide educators with innovate strategies for literacy instruction. For more information about the RMWP and the Urban Sites Network Conference, click here.