Geoffrey Canada, president & CEO of Harlem Children‘s Zone to speak at Vanderbilt University Jan. 21

What would it take to change the lives of poor children – not one by one, through heroic interventions and occasional miracles, but in big numbers, and in a way that could be replicated nationwide?

Answering that question led Geoffrey Canada to create the Harlem Children‘s Zone, a 97-block laboratory where he is testing new and sometimes controversial ideas about poverty in America. It is based on his belief that if you really want to change the lives of inner-city kids, you have to change everything all at once – their schools, families and neighborhoods.

Canada, president and CEO of Harlem Children‘s Zone, will speak at Vanderbilt University Jan. 21 at Benton Chapel. His address is titled “Leveling the Playing Field, Helping Poor Children Succeed.”

The event will begin at 4 p.m. and is followed by a complimentary reception at 5 p.m. The event is free and open to the public. Seating is limited and available on a first-come, first-seated basis. Parking will be available in Terrace Place Garage at 21st Avenue South and Terrace Place.

“We are working to provide an alternative to the toxic popular culture and street culture that glorify violence and anti-social behavior,” says Canada about his work with the Harlem Children‘s Zone. “We are working with people from the community to provide safe, enriching and engaging environments for children so they can develop just like their middle-class peers. By encompassing an entire neighborhood, we hope to reach a tipping point where the dominant culture is one that explicitly and implicitly moves children toward success.”

Canada knows inner-city life firsthand. Having grown up in the South Bronx, he went on to earn a master‘s degree in education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. The acclaimed author of Fist Stick Knife Gun: A Personal History of Violence in America and Reaching Up for Manhood, a manifesto of hope for boys born in the inner city, Canada is also East Coast coordinator for the Black Community Crusade for Children. Recently, Canada was honored with the prestigious McGraw Prize for education.

Canada‘s speech is part of the Chancellor‘s Lecture Series, which brings to Vanderbilt and the wider Nashville community intellectuals who are shaping the world today. For more information about the Chancellor‘s Lecture Series, visit, e-mail or call (615) 343-2574.

Media Contact: Missy Pankake, (615) 322-NEWS

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