Police violence and racial profiling loom large for my students, and often our solutions are legislative or civic. But Renée Watson’s guidance in “Happening Yesterday, Happened Tomorrow: Teaching the Ongoing Murders of Black Men” allowed me to bring hope and heart to a grueling and gruesome topic.
It was empowering to create art and think about the history of protest via artistic expression. My students were inspired to create not only poems but also posters and murals they displayed around our school. Watson’s lesson took a big, messy, horrifying topic and made it digestible for middle schoolers. They were able to acknowledge the pain and injustice of racial profiling, and then use their feelings of frustration, disgust, and guilt to make something meaningful and immediate.
Too often we are asking our students to wait and this allowed them to talk back immediately.