In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I challenged my students to follow in King’s footsteps this week. I asked them to think of a group of people who are treated unfairly in our country, and to do something — no matter how small — to work towards justice.
Students certainly had a lot to say. They focused on all sorts of different groups of people, and they made posters, delivered speeches, crafted videos, and wrote letters. Here is a taste of their hopes for the future of America…
Justice for People with Disabilities:
Justice for Transgender People:
I think transgenders should be accepted and appreciated because they are very brave and they choose to do something bold. I believe that these women are very brave because they did something that was totally their choice with support or no support from their family.
Justice for Poor People:
Justice for American Muslims:
Dear America — Muslims are not treated correctly. Sure, there are some bad Muslims but not all are bad. America is currently treating Muslims this way and it’s not right. Not all deserve to be treated this way. I say America finds a way to accept the Muslims that are innocent. Muslims come to America to feel as if they have shelter to feel safe but it’s hard for them to do that if we can not accept them. I feel that what we are doing is wrong. I think it is something to think about, put yourself in their shoes, would you like it? I know I sure wouldn’t. There are bad people in every race. Being a certain race doesn’t automatically make a person bad. There are people who come to this country to make a better life and work hard for the dream we get to live. If they are here peaceful and hardworking why treat them unequal. I mean unless you have no feelings and your heart is cold blooded. This is only my opinion but I feel that my opinion should be noticed. I’m only standing up for what I believe is right. This goes for all around America, if you think the same, do something and stand up for the Muslims. Don’t stand back and watch because it’s not helping anyone or anything. Make a change! Do something, Say something! Silence will solve nothing. I’m telling you it will work, it will help, it will make America beautiful. It will make you feel more beautiful than you can imagine. It’s what happens when you make a change. So think about it seriously, this is a time to come together.
Justice for People of All Sizes:
Don’t Judge A Book by It’s Cover… Many people are judgmental against obese people because they see them as lazy. Popular Culture (movies, tv, magazines) teaches us that thin is beautiful. In school, overweight children experience more bullying, are isolated, and are usually picked last for all sporting events. Dating is also difficult for overweight adults because skinny is more desirable. If I had my way, more people would see past the number on the scale and get to know obese people for who they really are.
Justice for People with Mental Illness:
Justice for People Who Have Spent Time in Prison:
Justice for Women:
Justice for People of All Sexual Orientations and Gender Identities:
I’m proud of my students’ efforts this week. I wish I had videotaped some of their speeches, but you’ll have to make do with this little taste of their words. Have you been influenced by any of these perspectives? What kind of justice are you working for today?
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Note: If you are a teacher and you are interested in this activity, here’s a little more info. We started by reading a playabout Martin Luther King Jr.’s work, designed for 3rd-5th grade, called Nonviolence on the Move. We discussed King’s strategies and why he was so effective. Then, as a class, students brainstormed groups of people who are not always treated fairly in our country today. In order to design their project, they used this worksheet that I designed to focus on 5 questions:
- What group of people do you want to be treated more fairly?
- Give at least 1-2 examples of ways that people from this group are not treated fairly.
- What change do you want to happen?
- What’s one strategy that Martin Luther King Jr. used in his work that you could use also?
- How would you like to take action on this issue? Prepare a small poster, video, speech, or do something else?