WMEP and Community Celebration of Place
Our ten-year partnership with Community Celebration of Place has resulted in three programs/initiatives: Elders’ Wisdom, Children’s Song, Young Publishers, and Youth and Elders Circle.

Elders’ Wisdom, Children’s Song

“When senior members of a community go into schools and talk about their lives and work, and children write songs with Larry Long about what they have learned, they create a remarkable celebration of humanity and hard work.” - Dr. Tony Seeger, Curator Emeritus, Smithsonian Folkways

Elders’ Wisdom, Children’s Song is an intergenerational and multicultural program created by Smithsonian Folkways recording artist and social justice advocate Larry Long, director of the 501(c)(3) nonprofit, Community Celebration of Place.

Over the past twenty-five years, Community Celebration of Place has honored nearly 1,000 community elders from across the United States and the world in spoken word, song, and art through this program. Alan Lomax, one of the great American field collectors of folk music of the 20th century, once called Elders’ Wisdom, Children’s Song, the “missing link.” That link continues to get stronger with every year.

Over 200 elders have been honored by students in the WMEP community through Elders’ Wisdom, Children’s Song thus far!

The goal of this program is to help foster a more equitable learning environment where the face of every child is represented and celebrated. This is done through bringing elders from many nations into the classroom to share their life story with students. Their spoken words are transcribed, put into song by youth, and performed at large community celebrations in their honor.

At the end of each interview, elders are asked to share words of advice with the students. Mr. Beni Persaud from Guyana, South America shared the following words of wisdom recently with youth at Sonnesyn Elementary School in Robbinsdale School District, “You must have a heart that is soft like soil, so when you plant something it will grow. If you try to plant it in a rock, you won’t get root. But if your heart is soft, if you have love, you’ll grow. No matter what you have, if you don’t have love, you’ll feel like the world is coming against you all the time. If you have love, you’ll learn how to forgive. And forgiveness is a key ingredient.” (

Opportunity: We are targeting three new school sites to host Elders’ Wisdom, Children’s Song this school year. Each new site will select three to four elders according to this years theme, Honoring Men of Color. Each Elders’ Wisdom, Children’s Song activity will culminate in a large community-wide celebration. It is our goal for each new site to reach self-sustaining status in the following school years. We will continue to work with the many sites in the Minneapolis and west metro community, who have already reached this capacity, and/or are transitioning to do so. (

Young Publishers
“Who will carry on this story when I’m gone?” - Slava Bryn, Elder

In school year 2013-2014, the partnership initiated the creation and publishing of twelve story-song books. These books, written and illustrated by youth, honor the cultural diversity of our region through the inspirational life stories of community elders. The books are integrated into the yearly curriculum of area schools and made available FREE online at

This year, as Young Publishers expands across the region, the focus is on Honoring Men of Color. Art instructors and youth can draw from seventy-eight first person narratives and songs already written through Elders’ Wisdom, Children’s Song, or new narratives gathered this year, to create literature that meets multiple reading levels and organized by The Lexile® Framework for Reading. Our goal is to create a regional body of student-based literature to celebrate the many faces of our region.

WMEP is funding the production of these books with a regional team of teachers, organizations, and other partners. This opportunity is open to any site in Minneapolis and the west metro community who wish to participate.

Youth and Elders Circle
“I am, because we are.” - Ubuntu

At the end of each school year WMEP plus Community Celebration of Place hosts an annual Youth and Elders’ Circle. The Youth and Elders Circle brings together elders past and present, who have been honored through Elders’ Wisdom, Children’s Song, to interact with youth and district staff from the region to celebrate our shared work and to further create intergenerational and multicultural opportunities for all students to prosper. This half-day gathering serves as a bridge between communities and schools through activities centered around multiple perspectives. The Youth & Elders’ Circle has led to new ideas, funding, and increased volunteering and mentorship in our public schools. We are looking forward to celebrate our 2015 fourth annual Youth and Elders’ Circle in 2015. Check back for the date and location.

For more information please contact Anthony Galloway, our Student Learning Programs specialist at or 612.752.7210.

Robbinsdale Area Schools – Sonnesyn Elementary School Celebration, February 5th, 2015

Elder: Michael Favor

Elder: Beni Persaud

Elder: Samuel Wagner Cooke