Did you know that two students helped get the word “upstander” in the dictionary? They studied the importance of speaking up and making positive change, and were surprised that the term -- coined by diplomat Samantha Power and popularized by Facing History and Ourselves -- wasn’t already recognized. So they worked, as upstanders do, to find a solution.
Over the course of the next four weeks, we will be exploring the intersection between the history of the City of Los Angeles and the LGBTQ civil rights movement between 1940 and 1980. Los Angelenos have a rich and sometimes unusual history of activism within their own communities and beyond. With the help of the Making Gay History podcast and its host Eric Marcus, we will get to know a few of the lesser known influencers. Knowing some of these stories ensures that the history we teach our students is both accurate and inclusive.
The first person we are going to meet is Edythe Eyde. Her voice is like listening to someone’s polite, unassuming grandmother . . . until you realize, through her stories, what a heroine she actually was. I’m sure you’ll agree that she was prescient, radical, and deserving of high praise. Way back in 1947, Edythe Eyde was already ahead of her time:
"Homosexuality is becoming a less and less taboo subject, and although still considered by the general public as contemptible, or treated with derision, I venture to predict that there will be a time in the future when gay folk will be accepted as part of regular society."
Each year, we invite our Los Angeles Partnership Schools to nominate an individual or group that has demonstrated the qualities of an Upstander in their school community. This year’s theme was allyship which kicked off at our Summit on School Culture last fall. Many schools had difficulty choosing just *one* person or group to nominate! Facing History is proud to recognize the effort and action of the following Upstanders in communities across Los Angeles.
As we've seen in our Upstander series this spring, "upstanding" takes many shapes. We've shared stories that range from the very visible Nipsey Hussle to nameless "allies" making themselves visible in a march against hate, from individuals who have dedicated their work to shaping or re-shaping their community like Jessica Smith-Peterson and Arianne Edmonds to students just beginning to leverage their voices for change. What does "upstanding" look like to you?
I recently had the kind of conversation an educator needs at this time of the year.
Claudia Bautista is a dedicated and skilled teacher at Santa Monica High School. She described a group of ninth grade students who took on a service learning project, and in challenging an injustice they saw on their own campus, exemplified youth agency and the promise of civic education.
Arianne Edmonds has upstanding in her DNA. Her great, great grandfather:
- testified at a Congressional hearing despite threats of violence
- started one of the early newspapers in Los Angeles for the Black community
- advocated directly for increased voter registration by African Americans
Facing History and Ourselves sat down with Arianne at the California African American Museum on April 29, 2019 to discuss her journey to bring the story of Jefferson Lewis Edmonds to more people.
Sometimes we think of learning how to be an upstander from those who have achieved amazing success. I had the opportunity to see an early screening of Knock Down the House - releasing May 1, 2019 on Netflix - and it has me thinking instead of all we can learn from those who stand up, not knowing whether or not they will even succeed. In this week's blog for our season of upstanding (#LAUpstander), I’d love to hear your thoughts on upstanding in film and what we learn from those upstanders whose success is by no means guaranteed.
Jessica Smith-Peterson received the 2019 Los Angeles Upstander Award from Facing History this Spring. Jessica holds a special place in our hearts having been a student in one of our LA classrooms a dozen years ago! Since that first introduction to upstanding rather than bystanding and her first actions to challenge injustice on her own campus, Jessica has gone on to get her law degree, advance immigrant rights, and teach formerly convicted persons how to restore their voting rights. Upon receiving the award, she shared how Facing History “opened up a world wider than I could have imagined” and taught her how to walk in someone else’s shoes, a skill that is vital in her work today as a public defender.
Have you been inspired by our #LAUpstander stories? Join us!
Become a social ambassador by sharing your #LAUpstander stories. Use the hashtag #LAUpstander, tag us at @FacingHistoryLA, and share short stories of your own upstanding or that of others. Feel free to share our social media logo (below)!
Are you a teacher? check out this mini-unit based on 10 Questions for Young Changemakers developed by Harvard’s Professor Danielle Allen and the Youth Participatory Politics Network.
Are you a student or school leader? Or do you want to step up into leadership at your school? Get others thinking about upstanding at your next club, school, or faculty meeting with this 20-minute activity: