David Poms attended Davidson College in North Carolina, on a community service scholarship. His freshman year he tutored children in a community center on the other side of the tracks. When he learned that the center would be the site of a Freedom School that summer, he signed on for the training, not knowing what to expect.
“I thought it would be like a summer school with training, but the whole cultural experience was life changing.” Being Jewish, he was familiar to some extent with being in a minority. But until the training at Haley Farm, he had never been in a minority as a White male. “That put me out of my comfort zone and made me think about who I was.” David grew up in Montgomery County, Maryland. His father is a real estate agent; his mother a personal organizer for various clients.
The next summer, he worked as an intern at CDF in Washington and helped support the Freedom School national training. He realized from his two summers with Freedom Schools that he wasn’t cut out for teaching. During his senior year, he participated in CDF’s Young Advocate Leadership Training (YALT) program. He found he was more drawn to the “movement aspect” of child advocacy. Through YALT, CDF gave him not only tools, skills and a network for organizing but also “direction and purpose.” He considers himself a very fortunate person to be doing meaningful work.
David is now a leader of YALT’s Children’s Action Team in Washington that is building the capacity of young people, particularly high school students, to push for dismantling the Cradle to Prison PipelineTM. His day job is Program Manager at the Capital Area Food Bank.
He was struck, he said, that during the recent debate over school closures and school reform in the district, the voices of the young people affected were missing. He and a team of about 20 are organizing workshops in Columbia Heights for high school students this fall. “We’re going to replicate some of what YALT does in terms of exploring history and the contemporary system of mass incarceration and what we can do as advocates and activists.” One target will be the racial disparities in school discipline policies in the district.
He recruited five young people from southeast Washington to come to a YALT conference in July, convinced that the young people who are affected by gun violence and neighborhood dysfunction must be at the forefront of a movement to change these conditions. One of them, Timothy Dawkins, was shot to death on a street corner a month after the training.
“So many people at the funeral talked about how they were impacted by his mentoring and inspiration. I hope we can build on his legacy.”