Educator connects with South Berwick kids

Educator connects with South Berwick kids

By Kyle Stucker kstucker@seacoastonline.com May 9, 2019

SOUTH BERWICK, Maine — Guy Trammell Jr. believes personal connections are the key to changing racially insensitive cultures and mindsets in the United States, particularly when they can be forged at a young age.Screen Shot 2019-05-09 at 8.28.00 PM Screen Shot 2019-05-09 at 8.28.23 PM Screen Shot 2019-05-09 at 8.28.45 PM Screen Shot 2019-05-09 at 8.29.04 PM

The idea is the driving force behind the latest installment of South Berwick’s “sister city” relationship with Tuskegee, Alabama. For the second year in a row, Trammell, a Tuskegee educator, is visiting local schools all this week to discuss civil rights topics, share his personal history with the movement, and highlight key African American figures in the nation’s history, particularly those whose contributions have been whitewashed.

“We need a lot more of this,” Trammell said of the importance of forging personal connections with those who are different from you.

Trammell’s remarks came shortly after he spoke Wednesday afternoon with a group of fourth-graders at Great Works School about the Tuskegee Airmen of World War II.

Trammell had the students laughing and shouting in excitement as he had them act out military plane formations to impart the prowess of the famed airmen, the first African American soldiers that were allowed to fight for their own country. Trammell taught the students how the airmen, nicknamed the Red Tails, excelled in many ways despite the fact that their entire initial creation and training was designed to prevent them from ever getting into the air.

A significant portion of Trammell’s presentation relayed on audience interaction, in which the students were eager to participate. A couple of girls could be heard talking about how they felt Trammell’s approach was the “best way” to learn about history.

But the interaction wasn’t just about the Tuskegee Airmen and figures Trammell discussed like Mildred Hemmons and Gen. Benjamin O. Davis Jr.; students lobbed Trammell question after question about his own life and hobbies, his grandmother’s experiences as a slave, and general life questions about the people who live in Tuskegee today.

To district curriculum coordinator Heidi Early-Hersey, it was exactly what local teachers wanted to see.

“It makes it a lot more real to make a personal connection with a person from a different place,” said Early-Hersey. “Civil rights are an important part of our history. This provides us with a much more authentic way to approach those topics.”

Trammell has several additional school appearances scheduled for the remainder of the week, including a community presentation that was scheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday at Marshwood High School. His weeklong residency in Marshwood schools is being funded by a grant from the Marshwood Education Foundation.

Through the sister city partnership, South Berwick residents have collaborated in many ways with their counterparts in Tuskegee since 2017. Residents of each town have visited with each other, primarily to listen to each other and broaden their understanding of people from different backgrounds. Demographically, South Berwick is more than 95 percent white, while Tuskegee is more than 95 percent black, according to the steering committee for the sister city partnership.

South Berwick and Tuskegee residents also collaboratively write a biweekly column for Foster’s Daily Democrat and the Tuskegee News called “Color Us Connected,” to further the dialogue in their regions.

Early-Hersey, a member of the steering committee, said she hopes the partnership can grow even further. She said she hopes local classrooms will be able to use technology more frequently to video chat and interact with students in Tuskegee to further create personal connections, as well as one day organize a trip to Tuskegee.

“I’m just excited to see where the relationship goes,” said Early-Hersey.

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