Encouraging cross-ideological discussion is an important preliminary step toward taking positive action, and one place where we hope those conversations will happen is in classrooms. The following ideas and activities can be used by teachers in high school or college settings to help students engage with the 'Letters to the Revolution' and join the fight for equality. Here are some guidelines:
• Allow all voices to be heard.
• Establish “common ground” agreements within your classroom or discussion group for what the different participants need from each other during what could be a challenging talk. This could range from “don’t talk over me” to “keep an open mind” to avoiding a certain topic if it’s a trauma trigger for someone in the room. If you see a member of your class/community breaking those agreements, call them to task. If one or more members of the class/community can’t stick to the agreements, take a break.
• Decide for yourself whether you’re comfortable revealing your own political views to your students while also being responsible for leading the dialogue. Some teachers think it’s very important to remain impartial/objective, and others believe they can discuss their own political views openly with their students, while also safeguarding their classrooms as spaces for all political opinions. Honestly reflect on who your students or community members are and what approach makes the most sense for your context.
• A great deal of this website is focused on intersectionality. Please take a moment to understand what intersectionality is with your students before you proceed to do work with these letters:
◦ A helpful video is here
◦ A definition of Intersectionality is here
• Letter writing has been an important way of guiding and focusing communities towards sustainable change. Please use past letters as a reference for the letters found here. Some historical letters for change include:
◦ "Letter to my Nephew" - James Baldwin
◦ “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” by Martin Luther King Jr.
◦ “Letter to Adolf Hitler, December 24, 1940” by I.M.K. Gandhi
◦ Or an example from the present moment, Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehesi Coates
(recommended for high school or college classrooms)
1. What is intersectionality? How can we see different forms of oppression intersecting in the letters (either within one individual letter or between letters)? Why is acknowledging intersectionality important (anytime and in this particular moment in American history)? How can understanding intersectionality more deeply support revolution or change?
2. Choose two letters and discuss why one person’s experience is relevant to the others. How do they relate?
3. How can we remain positive when faced with ideologies we don’t agree with?
4. Historical Examples of Using Letters as Tools for Change
: Choose a letter. How does it relate to how letters have been used in the past as a tools for motivation?
ESSAY WRITING OPTIONS
1. Choose a letter and write a response to the writer.
2. Choose a letter. Write about what this letter is inspiring you to do. In what way has this letter influenced you? Has it changed your mind about something?
3. Write your own letter to the Revolution. (go here for more guidance)
4. Choose a letter. How does it relate to letters that have been written in the past as tools for motivation?
1. Choose a letter. Create a collage of inspiration based on the thoughts and sentiments the writer conveyed.
2. Plan a "choral reading" of one of the letters, either as a whole class or in small groups. Choose some words, phrases, or sentences that everyone will read in unison, and then assign specific lines to individuals. Discuss how hearing the letter read with many voices affects one's reaction to the letter.
3. Ask each student to bring in a piece of music that reminds them of one or more of the letters. Listen to some of the songs in class and discuss how the songs are similar and different to the letters. Make a class "Letters to the Revolution" playlist.
4. Perform your own letters to the revolution as devised theater pieces.
5. Create a dance or set of movements/tableaux that show some of the emotions or goals of the letters.
6. See more action-oriented possibilites in our 'For Community Leaders' section.