Last week was a special moment for Kolot’s Children’s Learning Program.
Every year on Martin Luther King Jr. Day we honor the legacy of people fighting for freedom and justice in the U.S. by gathering to learn about the oppression and resistance that has shaped this country.
This year, we collaborated with activist-educators from Jews for Racial & Economic Justice (JFREJ). They not only contributed their knowledge of the history of Jews participating in social movements and working for change in their communities, but also shared information about the ways communities are coming together in NYC right now to keep the struggle going for a safe and dignified life for everyone.
We began with a multimedia history of the Civil Rights movement in the United States, beginning with the origins of the oppressive systems this movement sought to confront and transform.
Then we learned about the original civil rights activists, critically thinking and courageous African Americans and their allies who laid the foundatios for the movement of the 50’s and 60’s: Ida B. Wells, Frederick Douglas, Sojourner Truth, and others.
We used Theater of the Oppressed techniques to set up a frozen scene in which one student had power over 5 students and then students reversed it, creating a new scene in which those students came together and took the power. We read the Black Panthers’ 10 Point Program and discussed its relevancy today.
Thinking about what civil rights struggles are continuing in our city today, our JFREJ partners facilitated an activity based on the statistics of Stop & Frisk- who gets stopped by the police, why, and what happens. We looked at this poster that can be found all over Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn: Students learned about Communities United for Police Reform and watched this video as a way to enter the dialogue about how police behave and ideas for holding them accountable:
After exploring the different forms of resistance used by African Americans and their allies throughout the generations, up until today, students participated in a Jewish Resistance Scavenger Hunt. All around the room were posters with pictures, quotes, and information about different times and places that Jews have been involved in tzedek (justice) work. Students ran around the room reading and looking and finding the different facts and quotes listed on their scavenger hunt list.
We finished with a closing circle in which everyone got to share something they learned or something they were taking away from the experience. A large majority of the group expressed interest in learning more about The Black Panthers and about Stop & Frisk and the community organizing going on around that. So use the links included in this post to have more discussion at home!