This Monday we celebrate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and the impact he had on racial equality and civil rights. In remembrance, students at King took the opportunity to learn about the less well known facets of the civil rights movement.
This January, it was the students themselves who took the lead. Student organizers from all grades created and designed the curriculum to teach during at home Wednesday community programming. It took the form of a board game that would take students through a timeline of lesser known events of the civil rights movement. “The student-led MLK day activity was the first programming created by a cohort of students dedicated to human rights”, says student leader Hannah Cosgrove. “Our goal is to bring positive change to King in the form of programming such as this, as well as to enhance curriculum to represent more voices and diverse perspectives.”
Students joined Zoom groups of around 15 of their peers as student facilitators who would take them through the course of the civil rights movement, starting in the 1950s. On each board game space, there would be a question on an event or unsung hero of the movement. Participants would then try to find the answer as quickly as they could, and the fastest would win a point for their respective team; 9th graders against 10th, and 11th graders against 12. The winners would be rewarded with a dress down day, so stakes were high and competition was fast.
Many players were surprised at what they learned from the less popular narratives of the path to civil rights. Rosa Parks was not the first to be arrested for giving up her bus seat, but Claudette Colvin, a 15 year old high schooler. The Black Panther Party was responsible for free breakfast programs for kids in need. The United States has the highest imprisonment rate in the world. These aspects of history and more were shared to help students understand just how much there is to the civil rights movement.
“The most important thing I wanted students to take away from this was to recognize the untold stories and struggles from history as well as leave inspired to make a change in the world”, remarks student facilitator Wafa Nomani. Students dedicated to social justice and human rights volunteered to be the ones to guide participants through the game, as well as research the curriculum to build it. “It was very exciting to see students engaging so much with the activity” facilitator Sarah Cepeda recalls. Students being the ones to teach the material they created is a first step towards more student led initiatives at King to drive overall change for good.
“This activity was a perfect representation of the students’ goals for change at King”, said Cosgrove. “Not everything needs to be completely overturned and rewritten to bring about positive and forward thinking change; however, we most certainly need to be questioning and reflecting on current programing and curriculum in order to enhance and advance it.” This programming opened up the discussion of the civil rights movement to people with moments that are often overlooked or forgotten, as generally a more common and accepted narrative is what’s followed and taught. “We as students need to understand that within every story and history we are taught, there often lies an alternative or more complex one, so we must start looking for them.”