Whew! What a busy past couple weeks it has been! I had every intention of making these two separate posts, but as life played out that just hasn’t happened. So, here’ what we’ve been up to!
Our topic this week was learning the history of Kansas City’s Troost Wall and its role is serving as a racial divide in the metro. Students read The Other Side by Jacqueline Woodson, relating the symbolism of the fence in that text to the Troost Wall in our city. Students thought critically about what it would mean to “tear down” that wall. What does action look like when trying to uproot an entity that is so deeply rooted in KC’s and our nation’s history?
Student Response #1:
So the first thing is about Troost avenue, I have many mixed thoughts on this Avenue, a few of them consist of what is to become of this area, and I have an idea we have to tear down this wall (metaphorically). If we don’t then our generation will be known as the generation that failed, we might have created a flying car but we will only be known as the people that many generations before us believed in us but we failed again, and another thing this phrase “It’s always been this way,” that’s a load of.. Well you know what, What I mean by this is just because it’s been this way does not mean it has to, when france was conquered by germany in ww2 do you think they just went with this, NO they resisted over and over again until they broke free. Our generation is advancing. Everyday we create inventions we never believe were possible and yet we can’t understand Human rights, We feed, care and love animals a whole species different from us and we can’t do the same to US. I am pretty sure you guys know the saying “Divided we fall, United we stand,” We are falling apart protests, Lies, and profiling, how much longer will it take until there is no such thing as order or peace.
Student Response #2:
“This is what i think just myself i think. Why would people think it is ok to separate someone who is just different than just by a hair, color of skin, teeth, clothes everything that is on the outside instead of what they are like, because we are all the same in a way sure we might look different and act different but that doesn’t mean that i am better and more important than anyone in this classroom. There is books out there telling people that we should stop this because of this, i mean it spreads the word but not as effective as people of different kinds going together to make a stand and tell people that this is a real thing and there is no way around it. And people can easily not get the book because they have the choice to get it or not but when people are using words and is talking to you not typing in a doc on a computer. We all should think before we do something like what everyone has done in the past all they did was tell people different from us that they are no good and we should be the main show and they should just be the crew in the back making sure everything runs smoothly in the play. Lets just think for a second that white people are the performers in this play and the colored people or anyone different from us is the crew we shouldn;t be the main show because if we didn’t have the diverse that we have this country wouldn’t be the same everyone is important. “
Student Response #3:
“I think that troost avenue should still be there but it should not be separated one white one black because it’s like that story the only reason one is on one side and one on the other is because of the government and the people because only like two people are helping this from the white side and i’m sure that the black try more but white people have more of a chance of there voice being heard and i don’t like that and maybe someday that will change only if more than like 10 people from the white side would stand up for these black people maybe we can change this city and not just this city a lot of cities but you start with one step at a time”
These passages gave me pause, because I can see where these students are starting to understand the power structures that underlie these issues. And while that idea generally makes us run the opposite direction, these kids are ready to face it head-on. Part of this lies within naivety, but even more so in passion. A true intrinsic desire to face “the man” and exact change in their community. As the adults leading them, we cannot let this fire die.
So, on May 9th we brought them all together at the Johnson County Library under the amazing direction of Angel Tucker and her team. Students gathered in large and small group settings to continue exploring these issues with their peers from across the city. We used the texts The Best Part of Me, Mixed Me! and Chocolate Me! and Courage of the Blue Boy to engage students in discussion and writing.
Due to the number of students and time constraints of the day, much of the writing is still being developed by the students. I’ll be sure to share the final products of the day when they are ready. As all initial projects go, there are places to grow into and revisit. But when I think about the overall goals of this work I find my ultimate hope in the fact that our city became more connected on Tuesday. We stepped across our own boundaries geographically, meeting people we’d likely have never crossed paths with had it not been for this day. We extended ourselves personally by thinking more globally about the importance of community connections and really knowing your neighbor. We shared our voices without fear. We became activists. We united.
There’s not many (or any) email folders I have ever been excited to create, so this is certainly a first (and possibly a last). We have a wait list for next year!
Word is spreading and we are growing. Let me know if you want to be a part of this project. We’re just getting started!