I woke up at 4am on the morning of Tuesday, November 25th. I was faced with a challenge: In four hours, I would stand in front of four classrooms filled with young black people, in the aftermath of a grand jury’s decision to not indict Michael Brown’s murderer, Police Officer Darren Wilson. The night before, the decision and the collective emotions on Twitter had me so fatigued that the mental line I had drawn, the line that allows me to separate constructive anger from blind, reactive rage, was diced. I went to sleep early. Never before had the great moral weight of being a teacher felt so heavy to me.
Through the help of educators on Twitter and the hashtag #FergusonSyllabus ((https://twitter.com/search?q=%23FergusonSyllabus&src=typd )), I was able to create an impromptu lesson plan for my English and Video Journalism classes. I had each student fill out at KWL chart ((http://www.eduplace.com/graphicorganizer/pdf/kwl.pdf )). The chart has three columns. In one, students wrote down what they knew about what is happening in Ferguson. In the second column, they wrote down what they didn’t know, and in the last column, at the end of the lesson, they were to write what they had learned.
I decided to start with a video that told the basics of what happened ((https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cQ4Je_8dp70 )), along with a great segment that Melissa Harris-Perry had about the “No Angel” comment that New York Times writer John Eligon made about Michael Brown and respectability politics ((http://on.msnbc.com/1t3qpcI )).
The reaction from my students ranged from pseudo-apathy, the kind of void in affect that often results from how much death and loss that most of them have experienced in their short lives, to outrage. Some of my young people hadn’t heard about Michael Brown’s murder at all, or only knew that there were real “savages” in St. Louis (erroneously lumped in with Ferguson) who were burning cars. I should note that “savage” is a popular slang term among my students. They’ve called me “savage” as a compliment, meaning, someone who’s doesn’t care what others think. I always correct them with both the literal meaning of that term, as well as its connotation when used for people of African descent.
I’m fortunate to work at a school with a Black nationalist ethos, so it was also a topic at our weekly assembly. The Vice-Principal let me get on the mic and talk to the students about why people are organizing to cancel Black Friday and/or have dollars redirected to black-owned businesses in protest. Had I more time with my lesson and my time on the mic, I would have shared the below information with my youth.
Three Reasons to Cancel, Boycott, and/or Black-Out Black Friday:
1) A story in USA Today from October ((http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/business/2014/10/26/holiday-spending-retail-spending-christmas-nielsen/17784409/ )) said that mass retailers were depending on the minority dollar, particularly the African-American one, to bring holiday retail spending up from last year. While it won’t have the impact of a year-long boycott, like the Montgomery Bus Boycott, hitting retailers on the day of the year that they hope to end “in the black,” will send a much-needed message.
2) As one community member said in “Black Owned,” a documentary that students in my program produced, having a strong, local economy will lead to communities that are not only self-sufficient, but self-policing. Watch the video below or click here to watch it on Youtube:
3) I love a good deal and nice things as much as the next person. I also recognize that at times of injustice and mental discomfort, there are other, more productive ways to deal with those feelings then cutting in on community and fellowship with loved ones to spend money on things we really don’t need.
Below are some resources for shoppers who want to support black-owned businesses this Friday, and year-round (UPDATED- 11/27/2014):
An awesome list by beauty blogger extraordinaire Afrobella- 101 Black-Owned Businesses to Support on Black Friday
A Scribd list created by Instagrammers @NaturalPartnersInCrime – Black Friday/Cyber Monday Holy Grail Shopping List 2014
A list of Black-owned business in Chicago (not sure how updated it is, but it was posted in 2013).