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Leonidas Caldwell

Leonidas “Lee” Caldwell works on racial injustice in the educational system in Detroit, Michigan

The Work

Each morning I rise, I am greeted with the challenge of educating and nurturing the body and souls of my young, black, tortured brothers and sisters. In my role as Student Life Coordinator at our newly established charter school on Detroit’s westside, it is my job to shape and mold the leaders of tomorrow through our Student Life Organization and Student Life Period. The Student Life Organization is a team of student-leaders who will control many of the operations of the school; such as tutoring, school activities and events, school programs, marketing, school beautification, and the Student Life Period. Student Life Period is best explained as an enrichment program that is embedded within the regular school day. Students may participate in various clubs such as media, chess, dance, health/nutrition and the list goes on. It is my goal to expose the students to the wealth of life and knowledge beyond the confines of the strip of land bounded between 7 and 8 mile road. I am also working with a colleague to lay the foundation for a non-profit organization that will focus on increasing the involvement of fathers and father figures in our kids’ education. The goal of this organization will be to teach our students the value of building our community while giving them an outlet to explore new ideas, careers and pathways.

Inspirations and Influences

Too many people! I don’t know where to start. I was greatly influenced the incredibly strong-willed, knowledgeable, wise, humble, hardworking individuals who fought for the rights of the downtrodden. I have been fortunate enough to have shared many conversations with great men and women who didn’t make the history books or write a book of their own, or be a topic of discussion in a sociology class, but nonetheless, I am constantly inspired by older generations. Knowing how hard many of them worked for what we have today is beyond inspiring. It is sometimes hard to even imagine the mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual strength some of my predecessors possessed and I want to believe that they did not do it in vain. It is so alarming to me to see some of the things that we struggle with and how closely they resemble the same problems that existed decades ago. I hope to break the cycle just as many of them hoped to. And if I don’t break it, I will loosen it up a bit more for the next generation to carry the movement.

More concretely, I have been inspired by the works and action of Shirley Chisholm, Huey P. Newton, Stokley Carmichael, Angela Davis, Eldrige Cleaver, Malcolm X, Martin L. King, Barack Obama, Ben Carson, Prof. John Fink, Dean Karen Joshua-Wathel, Prof. Zaide Pixley, Eileen Wilson-Oyelaran, Chokwe Lumumba, Myron Cobbs, Jay Z, Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, Chris Matheson, Robert Bartlett and my brother Elvin Caldwell Jr., my parents Elvin and Betty Caldwell and many, many more.


Personal Quote: “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” -Dr. Suess

Field of Work: Education, community building/engagement

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If you’re still waiting for change, get out the way. You are slowing down the process for those people who understand that we must catalyze any change we want to see in the world and in our lives.