Who am I?
Does it really matter?
That goes from…
And we can go on and on and on.”
This project was the brainchild of 7 educators across five content areas. What better way to end the school year than with a Civil Rights Spoken Word Showcase?
Students were carefully assigned to groups based on mixed abilities and charged with writing, then synchronizing, three different poems based on 1) Native Son (read in English class), 2) Civil Rights Era person, event, law, theme (learned in my U.S. History class), and 3) a Current Event that resonated with them personally as young people. Poems had to include 5-10 math vocabulary words. Studying sound waves in Physics class, they built instruments and had to include music to accompany their performances. Finally, art [insert bow downs to my Art partner for the beauty and skill she drew out of our students] produced 27 Civil Rights murals 3 x 3 ½ feet that students created with oil pastels in groups based on small replicas using a grid system.
“A shadow where I stand behind you.
Black kids grow up.
Hoping for a better day
For we are all different.”
The Big Day had come and our team of teachers were nervous. This was the first time we had done an assessment like this and none of us were Spoken Word artists-what if the whole production was a flop because we hadn’t prepared our students enough?
Intersectionality. As educators, we strive to teach our kids academic skills. As social justice educators, we want them to be critical thinkers about society and themselves in it. As a woman of color, I want them to embrace their roles as Upstanders and agents of change.
“When walking down the street, it can get taken away.
Those differences can make our lives great,
Or make us wish we had a different fate,”
“Don’t you disobey!
These are the rules that a mother gave,
To her son Emmet Till, hoping he would obey.
You see I can’t walk alone at night,
Without worrying that I’ll be allright.
Women are being raped and still being blamed.
What were you wearing?
Why were you out so late?”
Our students showed up and SHOWED OUT! The creativity, social consciousness, and strength that they projected went above and beyond what we dreamed of. Surrounded by beautiful art of their own making, accompanied by music of their design, and in front an audience filled by peers, alumni, teachers, and community members, they performed some of the most eloquent and brave messages I have ever heard.
When I read the news with a heavy heart about the latest police shooting and I want to give up hope on a system that seems to never learn from its mistakes, I think back to a bright spring day this past May when a group of young people shone like the sun….young people of color, undocumented students, poor kids, queer kids, resilient kids. Socially conscious kids who view the world with a knowledgeable mind, critical mind, and open heart. Intersectionality. I remember them and it renews my faith.
“Don’t you understand all the oppression???
We are all from a different social class,
Let’s not forget nationality.
And that is intersectionality.”
This blog post was written by Sasha Guzman, teacher at Social Justice Humanitas Academy and a member of the Los Angeles Teacher Leadership Team.