Do What You Can: One Woman’s Essay on Race and NFL National Anthem Protest

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Sculpture at the Cleveland Browns’ stadium. Photo by Erik Drost. Used under Creative Commons license CC BY 2.0. Original at https://flic.kr/p/WNpLuF.

Happy Friday, everyone.

Local NPR is abuzz with people discussing this weekend’s planned bigot rallies in San Francisco (Saturday) and Berkeley (Sunday), and with counter-protesters’ plans.

In the spirit of thinking about using our agency in the ways that feel possible, here’s a brief essay by Erica Harris DeValve, who graduated college a couple months ago. Her husband, Seth, plays football for the Cleveland Browns. He made headlines this week for kneeling in a prayer circle with his African-American teammates during the national anthem. (Seth DeValve is white).

Harris DeValve’s essay for Very Smart Brothas is entitled, I’m Proud of My Husband for Kneeling During the Anthem, but Don’t Make Him a White Savior.” It’s a beautifully written essay whose title captures its main point. You should read it anyway for the clarity of her voice and her point, as well as to be reminded that this is the voice of an approximately 22-year-old woman and the actions of her 24-year-old husband. People of all ages, backgrounds, and experiences levels are working with their friends and acquaintances to embody their values.

Anyhow, here’s Harris DeValve, who says this and more better than I can.

I am grateful for the widespread support and praise that Seth is getting for his actions, but I would like to offer a humble reminder that a man—a black man—literally lost his job for taking a knee, week after week, on his own. Colin Kaepernick bravely took a step and began a movement throughout the NFL, and he suffered a ridiculous amount of hate and threats and ultimately lost his life’s work in the sport he loves.

We should not see Seth’s participation as legitimizing this movement. Rather, he chose to be an ally of his black teammates. To center the focus of Monday’s demonstration solely on Seth is to distract from what our real focus should be: listening to the experiences and the voices of the black people who are using their platforms to continue to bring the issue of racism in the U.S. to the forefront. Seth, as a white individual, never has and never will truly have to feel the weight and burden of racial discrimination and racial oppression. No white person does or will. But all white people should care and take a stand against its prevalence in this country.

What I hope to see from this is a shift in the conversation to Seth’s black teammates, who realistically have to carry that burden all the time. I am discouraged by this idea that acknowledging and fighting against racism is a distraction that must be stored away in order to be a good football player. I wholeheartedly reject that narrative.

Black players in the NFL cannot just turn their concern on and off in order to be able to focus more on football. White players shouldn’t, either. Racism is a day-to-day reality, and I hope that, instead of holding Seth up on a pedestal, the response will be to do what he did: listen to the voices of the black people in your life, and choose to support them as they seek to make their voices heard.”

Read the rest of Harris DeValve’s essay here.

You should really check out Very Smart Brothas whole site. Here’s a searing article from last week: How Trump Ruined My Relationship With My White Mother.

 

Small Stones Interviews: Eze Amos, Photographer

“…and then some of them took a knee and got out their gas masks, and at this point I was telling some of the policemen, ‘This is not necessary! What are you doing?'”

Here at Small Stones, we define education, and educators, broadly. So often, classrooms appear in the most unexpected places.

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Resist! Protesting the Ku Klux Klan. Photo by Eze Amos.

As we continue our own work of interviewing some of these educators, we wanted to share with you work from a friend of the blog. Photographer and photojournalist Eze Amos, a Charlottesville, Virginia local, has found himself in the middle of some of the larger protests and counter protests that have taken place since the 2016 election. We are featuring some of his images in this post; there are far more on his Instagram feed.

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Resist! Protesting the Ku Klux Klan. Photo by Eze Amos.

The issue at hand? A statue of Robert E. Lee, erected in 1924, that the city voted to remove earlier this year. The removal, however, is being held up by legal challenges. In May, white supremacist groups marched on the city carrying torches. This past Saturday, July 8, the KKK arrived. Continue reading “Small Stones Interviews: Eze Amos, Photographer”

Friday Music: Second Line Blues

Fridays are music day. Here’s Sweet Honey in the Rock paying tribute to lives taken by violence in Second Line Blues.

From Sweet Honey’s webpage:

The “Second Line Blues” song reflects the current state of gun violence, the senseless loss of life, mass murders, and police brutality in our communities. It pays homage to many who are known and unknown including Emmett Till, Freddie Gray, Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Clementa Pinckney, Tywanza Sanders, Amadou Diallo, Sandra Bland, Walter Scott, Susie Jackson, Sean Bell, Tamir Rice, Ethel Lance, Cynthia Hurd, Eric Garner, Myra Thompson, Daniel Simmons, and the mass killings in Sandy Hook, Columbine, Virginia Tech and many more. It is written and performed by founding member, Louise Robinson. It is inspired by the New Orleans tradition of funeral procession. The first line of the band is the procession and the second line of the procession consists of the mourners.

And a classic by Sam Cooke, “A Change is Gonna Come”. More about its history here from the New Yorker.

Teaching Resistance: General Strikes

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Image via The Stranger 

In honor of the general strike happening in some places today, this week’s A Day Without Immigrants, and the upcoming A Day Without A Woman, we’ve gathered some resources for teaching students a little bit about the history of the labor movement, with an emphasis on general strikes.

The Seattle General Strike Project has a wealth of information. Never heard of the Seattle General Strike? We hadn’t either. Lucky for we uninformed, the site has great background information.

The Seattle General Strike of February 1919 was the first city-wide labor action in America to be proclaimed a “general strike.” It led off a tumultuous era of post-World War I  labor conflict that saw massive strikes shut down the nation’s steel, coal, and meatpacking industries and threaten civil unrest in a dozen cities.
The strike began in  shipyards that had expanded rapidly with war production contracts. 35,000 workers expected a post-war pay hike to make up for two years of strict wage controls imposed by the federal government.
When regulators refused, the Metal Trades Council union alliance declared a strike and closed the yards. After an appeal to Seattle’s powerful Central Labor Council for help, most of the city’s 110 local unions voted to join a sympathy walkout. The Seattle General Strike lasted less than a week but the memory of that event has continued to be of interest and importance for more than 80 years.
There’s a LOT of information on this site, so here are a few things we recommend:
  • Check out Rob Rosenthal’s 1977 interviews with those who remembered the events. (This is also an excellent way to incorporate oral histories into the classroom!) Audio is available for some interviews, as are searchable transcripts.
  • For 11th grade teachers, there’s a full lesson plan on the general strike. Students role play as newspaper op-ed writers and are required to utilize first-hand accounts.
  • Photographs. Lots of them, both historical and present day.

From Documentary Lens, a lesson plan that goes along with the documentary On Strike: The Winnipeg General Strike, 1919.

This lesson is intended to foster, in Grade 11 and 12 students, a knowledge and understanding of the issues raised in the film On Strike and to promote progressive, democratic considerations around values and attitudes regarding Canadian citizenship. Cross-curricular connections include Socia l Studies, Language Arts, Political Science, Economics and History.

The activities will help students develop their inquiry, research, critical thinking, communication, and media literacy skills. Students will brainstorm current events around strike action issues; compare the rights of workers in the past and today; research and prepare a debate based on principles in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Canadian Labour Code; and write an editorial on the filmmaker’s point of view.

And finally, via the California Federation of Teachers, materials relating to the 1946 Oakland General Strike. The site provides a video excerpt from the longer film Golden Lands, Working Hands, “We Called it a Work Holiday.” There’s a lesson plan that goes along with it. Notably, it asks students to analyze three newsreel clips and the perspectives behind them.

Learning Objectives

Students will be able to:
• learn the causes of the Oakland General Strike and what it achieved
• critically assess news coverage of labor issues for point-of-view bias
• analyze the significance of a general strike as a strategy for collective worker action

Video Summary

Post-war tensions are revealed by a strike of mostly women retail clerks in two down- town Oakland department stores, which expands to become the last city-wide General Strike in US history. When the video repeats a newsreel segment with alternative voiceovers, viewers learn how “news”—like history itself—is constructed from a point of view. And through the exemplary solidarity of streetcar driver Al Brown, we learn how workers can make history, too. [We also gain a unique insight into the longest run- ning farm labor dispute until the 1960ʼs, the DiGiorgio strike of 1947-1950, through the footage of a “lost film” made by Hollywood supporters of the strike.]

 

The Music of Social Movements, Part 2

We’re still pursuing resources on music that has motivated movements. Continuing past the music of the civil rights era (which we blogged about here) and the Anti-Apartheid movement, here’s a lesson plan from the New York Times: Teaching With Protest Music.

It has overviews and embedded music from the older movements, but also to music from Beyoncé (***Flawless), Pussy Riot, and Los Tigres del Norte. The article also introduced us to Genius, a remarkable lyrics annotation site.

Here are some of the ELA prompts for students:

About the role of music:

Write and Discuss: Why do you listen to music? How does music make you feel? Does music serve a different role in your life depending on your mood, who you are with or what you are doing? Does music ever cause you to think differently, to feel a part of something larger or to want to rise up and take action?

Engaging with a particular song:

Listen and Annotate: Next, listen to ____________, a protest song from the time period we are studying, while reading along with the printed lyrics. As you listen, annotate by underlining, highlighting or writing in the margins — reacting or responding to anything in the lyrics or in the music itself. (You may want to play the song a second time, if it would be helpful.)

About a song the student has selected:

Bring in Contemporary Music That Speaks to an Issue or Era in the Past: What songs today have something to say about the past, whether because people are still struggling with the same issues, or because the lyrics seem symbolic or ironic when seen through the lens of the past?

There are also links to editorials and op-eds written by scholars and musicians: many great resources and jumping-off points!

Re. Inauguration

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image by Shepard Fairey, available for free download

Well, it’s here. We’ve got a few things that may be useful now and in the short term.

First, get your images. Via The Amplifier Foundation, download the series of We the People protest art, for free. One of these amazing images above.

Resistance 101: A Lesson for Inauguration Day Teach-Ins and Beyond comes from Teaching for Change. This is a middle and high school lesson focused on allowing students to “meet” a variety of activists. Students conduct interviews, taking turns acting as the American activists.

There’s a wealth of information, including short biographies with photos, and the handouts are easy to use. The list of activists ranges from Ella Baker to Yuri Kochiyama to Mother Jones to Ida B. Wells. There’s also good information on other places to conduct further research.

Note: this lesson requires a name and email in order to access the download. 

The lesson is based on the format of a Rethinking Schools lesson called Unsung Heroes and draws from lessons by Teaching for Change on women’s history and the Civil Rights Movement, including Selma.

This lesson can make participants aware of how many more activists there are than just the few heroes highlighted in textbooks, children’s books, and the media. The lesson provides only a brief introduction to the lives of the people profiled. In order to facilitate learning more, we limited our list to people whose work has been well enough documented that students can find more in booksand/or online.

Teaching After the Election of Trump comes from the Zinn Education Center. This is a landing page that curates the Zinn Education Center’s resources and lesson plans that are most appropriate for this political moment, and they are grouped by subject. Categories include Environment, Civil Liberties, Economic Inequality, Muslims, Press, Immigration, and more.

Check out this website when you have a little more time to spend–there’s a wealth of information, and it’s well-organized. Each section also invites you to click a link to learn more about various topics, and there’s a lot of great material here.

No doubt, still reeling from this poisonous election, it is hard to be hopeful. But we invite you to draw on curriculum at the Zinn Education Project to help your students make sense of this new context. We include lessons—some highlighted below—that:

  • Show how social movements have made important strides even during dark times.
  • Help students explore other moments in history when elites have mobilized to roll back racial and economic progress.
  • Highlight examples of “divide and conquer” politics.
  • Help students explore aspects of Trump’s agenda—immigration, the environment, Muslims, civil liberties, the press, and economic inequality.

It’s vital that we introduce our students to the individuals and social movements that have made this country more just.

#TeachResistance is a group after our own heart, founded in the aftermath of election results to help teachers, students, and families navigate both education and resistance.

January 20th is their Inauguration Day Teach In; you can read more about this project here. We’re coming to the teach-in a little late, but fortunately it looks as though this group of NYC-based educators is going to continue putting out good material.

There’s a toolkit available for download that contains lesson plans for K-5th grade, and while it’s linked to the inauguration, it’s well worth checking out for use at any other time. Currently, they feature teachers and books on their Tumblr and link to lesson plans that those teachers have developed.

From their statement of purpose:

WHEN

  • #TeachResistance is designed to support a Teach In on Inauguration Day, January 20, 2017, but the work is bigger than one day, and it is bigger than all of us. We envision it as part of the ongoing collaboration between educators, parents, and all those who want to prepare children to be an active part of our democracy.

HOW/WHAT

  • The goal of the #TeachResistance toolkit is to share stories of resistance from the past and teach strategies for resistance in the present. Students will learn about ways that young people have fought back against injustice in different times and different places.
  • Through age appropriate read alouds and suggested activities, we will introduce students to stories of communities coming together to make a difference.

Students and Civil Disobedience: Taking Action

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Should students get involved in civil disobedience?

The answer to that question has everything to do with circumstances: who the students are, what actions they plan to take, and what they are protesting. And that’s just the beginning.

Given our political reality, however, it’s naive to think that students and their families whose lives may well be directly impacted by policy change won’t be eager to have their voices heard. For some, this will mean civil disobedience.

So here are some resources that may be helpful for anyone who plans to protest.

From the Albert Einstein Institution, 198 Methods of Nonviolent Action is an excellent list of ways to resist.

The list is grouped into categories that include “Formal Statements,” “Communication with a Wider Audience,” “Drama and Music,” “Actions by Consumers,” “Symbolic Public Acts,” and more. Note that this resource is a critical part of the PBS Learning Media lesson plan covered here.

One of the things we like most about this document is the breadth of methods presented. Not all students will want, much less be able to, join street demonstrations, but most will be able to find a method here that helps them use their voice in a way that’s powerful. Maybe that’s #18, Display of flags and symbolic colors. For another, it could be #2, Letters of opposition or support. Others might make use of #36, Performances of plays and music. (And we have material that can help with both options!)

For those who will be joining demonstrations, Right to Protest has a detailed list of steps to take to best ensure safety for protestors.

The tips begin with Before You Go and run through Get Back Safely and Share Your Story.

One place to find demonstrations that may be near you is here. However, you know your students and situation best; we can’t recommend enough that educators vet protests and demonstrations to the best of their ability before encouraging students to take part. Safety is paramount, and there are many ways to be heard.

Got additional resources on this topic? Any tips or stories? We’d love to hear them.