Monday, December 1, 2014

First Day Back: We Must Discuss Ferguson

by Ann Abbott

There's no way I could have stepped into a classroom today and not discussed the decision by the grand jury not to indict the policeman who killed Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.

1. Message: #BlackAndBrownLivesMatter

I asked students to look at the image below and take a couple of minutes to compose their thoughts, their reactions.

2. You: What Are Your Thoughts?

While they thought about things, I wrote #BlackAndBrownLivesMatter on the chalkboard. I handed each student a piece of chalk and asked them to go to the board and write down something they were thinking/feeling.

3. React: Dialogue, even in a small way, with your classmates

Each student picked up their chalk again and put a "heart" by the phrase that they liked, agreed with, were struck by, etc.

4. Share: Expand the dialogue, move to face-to-face interactions

It's not easy to talk to people about Ferguson, Mike Brown and the policeman. You don't know where they are. But I asked students to do the following for five minutes: 1) share their thoughts and 2) talk about what this has to do with our class, Spanish for Business.

5. I shared, too

I told them that I was bothered by people who were more upset about damage to private property than to systemic, institutional racism that leads to death. I shared that I understand the anger, and that if it has no channel toward change then it's obvious that it will erupt in other ways.

6. Contextualize this globally

There's a whole world out there that is fed up and making their voice heard. We watched the video for "Somos Sur" by Ana Tijoux. Afterward I asked them what the tone of the video and song are: anger, they said. What else caught your attention? Spanish and Arabic, many countries mentioned, indigenous cultures, united against injustice.

7. Listen. Really, really listen.

Students then looked up the lyrics of "Somos Sur" and we heard it again. We need to listen. Understand. Work in solidarity with the people whose language we are learning.

Let's spread this!


  1. I like this! It sounds like a mix middle eastern music. Deb B.

  2. Yes, Deb B. It's a collaboration between a Chilean artist and a Palestinian.

  3. Here is another music video for this song with a few different images.