This is the fifth story in our series, “A Network of Innovation: Ideas, Questions, and Wisdom from our LA Partner Schools.” This week, seniors at Animo Jackie Robinson are formally presenting their Student Action Projects, the culminating act of their Ethnic Studies course and a rich high school learning trajectory that emphasizes upstanding and community engagement. Ethnic Studies teacher Jasmin Gonzalez describes not only how students complete this challenging project, but how it takes an entire school community and coordinated, vertical planning to pull it off. While the experience is uniquely envisioned and carried out by Animo Jackie Robinson, the connections to Facing History’s focus on upstanding, core pedagogical approach, and support for interdisciplinary learning stand out as core elements that make our partner schools a dream to work with.
Have you ever wished you could share stories of inspiration with young people about individuals they might connect with and relate to? The stories of Martin Luther King, Jr., Dolores Huerta, Bayard Rustin, Anna May Wong and others are amazing, but sometimes they can feel inaccessible as role models. At least, it feels a little overwhelming to go from where we are now, to what they achieved, without a deep dive into their journeys.
We have a gift for you!
Each year, Los Angeles area Facing History partnership schools cultivate a culture of upstanding, and celebrate that upstanding at the end of the year by recognizing actions taken by middle and high school students. This year, we're thrilled to share that recognition in an online gallery! And below, a few ways to use it with young people, whether your students or simply individuals you seek to inspire.
Over the last 2 months, I've had the immense pleasure of interviewing three individuals with unique and powerful perspectives on civic engagement.
- Dolores Huerta, civil rights icon and co-founder of the National Farm Workers Association, whose activism for 7 decades inspires and compels others to act.
- Eric Marcus, whose interviews of LGBTQ civil rights activists (now shared through the Making Gay History podcast) illuminates the courage of individuals to raise their voices even when others don't want to hear them.
- Henry Jenkins, whose research on the intersection of participatory culture and pop culture provide new insight into understanding civic participation in a digital age.
But perhaps the most inspirational are the stories that come from LA Facing History Partnership Schools each year around this time - individuals and groups whose upstanding make a concrete difference every day in the lives and future of our Southern California students and communities.
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.