I’ve told few until now, but I’m actually a Trekkie.

Tonya Perry Trekkie
I’ve enjoyed most of the generations of Star Trek. I admit, though, I can’t always keep up, so I’m absolutely terrible at the trivia, but what I have always admired, despite my lapses in consistent viewing, is how each generation evolves with its own new set of people who are able to meet the demands of the times and remain malleable yet committed to the principles set by the directive. I’m constantly amazed by the innovative strategies and inventions that evolve with each new generation in the adaptation process.

For the last 40 days, we’ve celebrated the past 40 years of NWP, sharing stories of our beginnings, our history, of our own adaptation to the needs of teachers and students. We’ve swapped important moments and informed another generation, including me, of the work of NWP from national and site perspectives. Today is the first day of the The Next New Forty Generation.

So what is this NWP Next New Forty Generation? It is a new time to learn lessons from our past and to think about the next forty years, the future of our sites, and to seize opportunities to grow to meet the new demands of teachers, families, and children. We are not unlike the generations of Star Trek, or the generations of people who have made (and some still making) a difference in NWP, like Jim Gray, Judy Buchanan, Richard Sterling, Patty Stock, Vanessa Brown, and so many others. We, NWP, are not unlike others in our larger society who want to make a difference. I am reminded of times in which a people have re-envisioned and re-positioned themselves to adapt to the directive that we all are human and deserve the right to be heard, the right to to tell our stories, which can lead to impact and change of the human condition.

I am most recently reminded of the time the NWP family spent in Birmingham, Alabama in 2013 at the Urban Sites Conference with the Red Mountain Writing Project to commemorate and learn more about the Civil Rights Movement and the power of one one voice, one pen.

2013 NWP Urban Sites Conference

We spent time learning together how the adults and children of Birmingham worked in their own spaces to make a difference to improve human conditions in that era. Janice talked about being a child who left school and marched while the angry onlookers screamed in her teenage face. Rickey recounted losing one of his best friends in the Sixteenth Street Church bombing. Sol discussed his conflicted stance as a businessman in the middle of the two sides of the struggle. Sixteenth Street Church Birmingham Odessa talked about her role as a high school teacher during the time when passionate children wanted to take a stand in the face of danger, despite the school laws and parent warnings. Helen recounted the power of her father’s pen, Attorney Arthur Shores, as the only African American bar-certified attorney in the state during his early career and then later becoming one of the legal representatives for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Then, at the same conference, we were reminded of the need to fulfill that promise of equality and justice, of opportunity and access, for today’s children through orations by three dynamic middle school students, performances on drums and other instrumental/vocal talents of young local musicians, and essays of social justice shared by the next generation. Steve Z. challenged us to share our teacher voices, not only among ourselves, but especially with the larger society. *We were reminded of the directive that we all are human and deserve the right to be heard, to tell our stories, which can lead to impact and change of the human condition.

Youth at 2013 NWP Urban Sites Conference

NWP is in the right place at the right time to forge boldly into the next generation of innovation. We are positioned to help give voice to teachers, families, and children who need a pen, an opportunity to learn, and access to a quality education. Today is the first day of the Next New Forty Generation. Let us think individually and collectively about what we will do to impact this new generation. How will we adapt to the demands and needs in this new territory? What resources can we share to help each other do this important work? How can we, the New Forty Generation, collaborate among sites and with outside partners even more successfully to become innovators?

Let us embrace this journey with courage, intellect, innovation, collaboration, wisdom, tenacity, and fervor. Let us go together where we’ve never been before in the new Next Forty Years.

Tonya Perry NWPTonya B. Perry is the director for the Red Mountain Writing Project in Birmingham, Alabama at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. She is an associate professor of Secondary English Language Arts in the School of Education in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction.