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One photo shows Elizabeth Eckford, a young black girl sitting alone in the school cafeteria.Another shows a black boy fighting back against two white boys who have tried to force him and his sister off the sidewalk. He says, “Girls can’t play.” You feel like you are not good enough.Invite students to contribute what they know about the recent events that have brought these names to the attention of the nation.
Give students time to look at the images in the book. ” If you like, you can also share some of the student poems I’ve included below.
Pre-Writing Tell the students you would like them to write their own prose poems—inspired by Rankine’s work and Toni Morrison’s images in feel bad, small, inferior. Ask for a volunteer from the class to share an experience.
You can summarize, for those unfamiliar with these names, by saying that these were unarmed people of color who were killed—most by the police—in racially-charged encounters.
(It might be good to put a time-limit on this discussion, which could easily go on for a while, to make sure you leave enough time for rest of the lesson.) Emphasize to the class that even though the names listed above are those of people who were killed, many small interactions happen all the time that don’t end in violence but can also be very damaging to people’s self-esteem or feeling of well-being.
by Phyllis Meshulam My heartbreak over the unnecessary death of Trayvon Martin was far from healed when news of the fatal shooting of a local California teen, Andy Lopez, created fresh rupture.
In the midst of the horror and helplessness I felt, I was grateful to come upon Claudia Rankine’s book Of course the book confronts us with another form of injustice: the everyday violence of constant slights and micro-aggressions that people of color are still subject to in this country.Encourage discussion about the incident Rankine describes at the drugstore, where the man who cut in front of her insists he did not see her.Ask, “Has any of you ever had the experience of feeling like you really were not seen?Presentation of Supplementary Material When I taught this lesson, I brought in pictures from Toni Morrison’s book .The photos in this book are from 19, when a new law requiring schools to desegregate was starting to be enforced.” Or you can tell your students they might choose to write about a time when someone was kind and made them feel better. If students are having trouble getting started, you can provide some of the following starters: are used to hurt (or help) us. Miley Cyrus by Alexis Hernandez Abundis People call me Miley Cyrus, even though I am a boy. Explain that it can be useful when writing about something very painful: that it can help the writer feel a little more private, but also might help the listener feel like s/he is really part of the experience, too.You can also point out how Rankine’s work is in the form of prose poems, which don’t use the line breaks usually associated with poetry, but make use of other poetic techniques.Ask the class to notice how, throughout the poem, the speaker uses the second person, calling herself “you.” Ask them why they think she does this.Tell them that they can use this technique as well, if they want, in their own writing.