Jan Haman writes:
“Although I’ve been teaching a course in Civil Rights for close to a decade, I thought it would be culturally more relevant to today’s students to include a larger discussion about the urgent social and political issues affecting their lives now. So when I stumbled across M.K. Asante Jr.’s book It’s Bigger Than Hip Hop; The Rise of the Post-Hip Hop Generation, I decided to include that text, along with the classic Eyes on the Prize by Juan Williams. The Asante book uses hip-hop as a springboard for a broader discussion of the inner city, corporate monopolies of the music industry, and the future of youth searching for itself.
Early on in the winter trimester, as the Civil Rights and the Post Hip Hop Generation class was beginning, the idea of Black History Month was raised. Because it is a small class and a highly committed class, I suggested the students take on the month of February as their final assessment in the course. And, that’s when a culture change took place and the students took ownership of the course. Sola Aderonmu, Sumayyah Cooper, Aliyah Westbrook, Lacy Hulecki, Ben Short, and, later, Khareem Edwards, began devouring the readings in both of their textbooks, teaching each other and me, and planning which video highlights they would capture for their Black History presentations. The course became theirs and I became a facilitator for their enthusiasm. For me, it’s been a humbling experience. After 45 years of teaching, an old dowager can learn new tricks, like “Get out of the way and let the kids teach themselves.”
The Civil Rights Class has made it their goal to educate the rest of the School about their findings, focusing not only on the major figures of the movement, such as MLK, Jr, but emphasizing the lesser-known characters and events of this period. Moreover, they have choreographed and performed a dance, inspired by Alvin Ailey’s groundbreaking “Revelations” piece, as well as showing interviews with Tupac and playing music by various African-American artists.
Some of the presentations have included: The Children’s March in Birmingham, Four Little Girls, Emmett Till, Jonathan Daniels, the Women Activists, the Black Panthers, the “ghetto,” Black music and dance, Alvin Ailey and MLK’s letter from Birmingham Jail.
The students have done an extraordinary job in educating our community about the Civil Rights movement and its repercussions, on many levels. We are lucky to have had this month-long experience with them.
Pictured in this photo: Aliyah Westbrook ’13 and Sumayyah Cooper ’11 performing the Ailey-inspired dance which they choreographed themselves