Welcome back, it has been a while.
Before spring break started 2 weeks ago, we were just wrapping up our Civil Rights Movement unit. This unit followed the events in American history during the 50’s and 60’s concerning the Civil Rights Movement led by Martin Luther King Jr. So, for the last few months, we’ve been studying the many events that took place during the movement, how it all started and how it relates to today’s time.
In this unit, there were 3 main parts. First step, a blog post comparing a person or event from the civil rights movement with one from today. I decided to compare the actions of Martin Luther King Jr with P.K. Subban, a NHL player. Below is my post about the topic.
I actually really liked writing this post, as I found I was really interested in my argument. I found some good research that interested me outside of school in a way, as in it’s something that I would have looked into even if it wasn’t a school assignment. I looked into P.K. Subban standing up for a younger hockey player who was experiencing racial taunting and felt discouraged. I compared his public actions to MLK and argued that for a change to come, an individual must publicly voice their opinion for a change. I learned a lot about how history can repeat itself, and that there are obvious similarities between events in history if you look hard enough.
The next step of our unit was to read a novel. This we started near the beginning of the unit, and then read through 8 chapters a week for 3 weeks. I found this book really interesting, and sort of eye-opening. It was called Dear Martin, written by Nic Stone. This book followed the life of an African American student who is in his last year of high school, and set for the Ivy League. Justyce McAllister goes through a rollercoaster of emotions as he experiences firsthand the effects and prevalence of racism in his community. He documents his feelings of frustration and lack of motivation to keep pushing through in a journal written to Martin Luke’s King Jr. This book is a must-read for a different perspective on racism in our life today.
This book impacted me through showing the other side of the story in a way. I have always known about racism, and police bias and brutality but I’d never really read about or seen it at all. I learned about how much the system can be manipulated by people in control and how the way the story is told on the media effects the public perspective.
The next in class assignments we did were these things called Socratic Seminars. After hearing the name, I was a little confused because whatever these were already sounded boring. But, as it turns out, they were really fun. Basically, every Friday for four weeks, we would sit in a circle of 9 students, with a partner sitting behind everyone in the inner circle. The inner circle would be given 20 minutes to talk about a text or video we have been studying in class. The talk was totally free, and our teachers weren’t involved. As a group, we’d ask questions and respond in ways meant to further and expand our understanding of the text/video.
For the first two weeks, our seminars were based on the first 16 chapters in Dear Martin, and the last two weeks were based on movies we watched about the Civil Rights Movement. These Socratic seminars, something I thought were going to be boring, were actually the opposite. I learned a lot more about the aspects of Dear Martin than if I would’ve just read it on my own. Even though I wasn’t the #1 speaker all the time, I enjoyed listening to everyone’s ideas and just where the conversation went. My biggest takeaway from these were that no matter what the topic is, you can deepen your learning just by talking and asking questions with other people.
And finally, the main event. Our goal was to create, in a group of two, a video around the driving question of how an individual can change a system. In this theme, we had to have at least one link to Canada. I was paired with my man Robbie Wharton. And after knowing this, we got right down to work.
We started off our thinking with finding a our answer the the driving question. We first thought that in order for a person to be able to change a system, they must be influential. Then we thought about who some of the most influential people in society are. And we thought of celebrities, and musicians. We also connected this back to how music was growing during the Civil Rights Movement time period. Our next step was to find some musicians that battled racism in the 50’s and 60’s.
The three people we came up with after more-than-average amounts of research were Sammy Davis Jr, Sidney Poitier, and John Legend. These three men were our main evidence on proving our thesis. Me and Robbie filmed and edited our first draft, and then realized we didn’t have any Canadian connection in our video. We went back and researched more into this. The connections we ended up finding were through Sammy Davis Jr. It turns out that Sammy Davis had hosted a TV show in Canada on CBC. This is actually more important than it sounds. That is because he, being a black man, wasn’t allowed to host any tv shows in America! This is just one of the many hardships that African Americans had to deal with in this time period.
After recieving critique from some grade 8s, we added in our Canadian connection and changed a few other bits. Then, we were done.
Right away, I wasn’t happy with our video. It was boring, repetitive and didn’t really get our point across. I found that me and Robbie just tried to take the easy way out with this video and do it really simply, without being smart or creative. We didn’t really have strong evidence or research and definitely didn’t execute it in the way I wanted to. It wasn’t a great end to a great unit, and I wish I had put in the time to make it great. Part of it was I got really sick right around the time we would have been making our second draft. Anyways.
This unit was overall really interesting. I’d always heard of MLK and the Civil Rights Movement but never really understood it. This unit really helped me understand what really happened in that time in america, and how our lives are affected by it today. I learned about the lunch counter sit-ins, the Montgomery bus boycott and much more. This all showed me how people can gather together to make a difference, and how one person can change a system. It is definitely up there for one of my favourite units of all time, even with a mediocre final product on my part.