Teresa Willis

I’m working this summer in one of New York City’s Regional Enrichment Centers (REC), where I teach ELA and Science. We’ve been reading Rita Williams-Garcia’s book, “One Crazy Summer” where the Black Panthers and central to the narrative. In an early chapter, one of the characters notices a Black wall of fame and the 11-year-old was surprised that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wasn’t pictured. She recognized only two of the men, Malcolm X and Muhammad Ali, and none of the women. She did note that a caption under one of the women’s picture’s was “I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired.” That quote is, of course, from Fannie Lou Hamer.

Thus, I adapted the first lesson in “Who Gets to Vote?” for elementary level students. It went well. I showed two short video clips of Ms. Hamer and the kids had a lively discussion about who should be able to vote; about conditions in the Jim Crow South; and about Fannie Lou Hamer. The next day, we saw the entire 26 minute PBS video on Hamer. We focused on Hamer and her important work for expanding voting rights. For all of my summer students, it was an introduction to a heroine of the Black Freedom Struggle rarely taught in schools. I plan to teach the lesson in my regular classroom when we return.