I have one rule in my sixth grade language and literature class at Brooks Middle School: lead with love. When working with a partner, when you walk the halls, when you interact with your teachers, when you are alone with yourself, always lead with love.
It is inspired by the late Congressman and civil rights leader John Lewis. In 2013, Lewis sat down with On Being’s Krista Tippett. As he reflected on his civil rights work, which included being attacked by police during Selma’s suffrage march in Montgomery, Alabama in 1965, he said, “The movement has created what I like to call a nonviolent revolution. It was love at its best.
“It is one of the highest forms of love,” Lewis said. “That you beat me, you arrest me, you take me to jail, you almost kill me, but despite that, I’m still going to love you.”
Along with my colleague Katy Alejos, who is the chair of the language and literature department at Brooks and teaches eighth graders, I’m excited to support a community collaboration this fall, where middle school students will help lead community discussions about the graphic. by John Lewis. Romanesque trilogy, March.
These honest, anti-racist discussions are recommended for anyone aged 11 and over. Intergenerational Peace Circle sessions will give all participants an equal opportunity to speak, listen and be heard as we reflect on the impact of civil rights movements today.
Along with the adults and students at Dominican University, Oak Park and River Forest High School, and Julian Middle School, I know our students at Brooks Middle School will lead with love.
They will also bring warmth. Students bring passion, novelty, fragility and vulnerability that we adults cannot always bring.
As Katy says, “College kids often have a bad reputation. But I think adults who discover this scene will be amazed and inspired by our college kids.
“Topics of race, racism and anti-racism swirl throughout their daily lives, and most of them are very aware of it, perhaps more so than adults,” Katy points out. “Their day-to-day experiences make them experts, and as a result, they have a lot of really valuable inputs, ideas, thoughts and knowledge that need to be heard, analyzed and discussed.”
I agree with Katy. Students give me so much more than I ever imagined. They have insight and reality that was not tainted by old age. They are filled with hope and belief in change, they are fresh and we need to cultivate that.
Please join us for this three-part series, a collaboration between Oak Park Elementary School District 97; Oak Park and River Forest High School; the Oak Park electronics team; the Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation group at the Dominican University; the Township of Oak Park; and the Oak Park Public Library.
Book 1: Tuesday October 26, 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Book 2: Tuesday, November 16, 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Book 3: Tuesday December 7 from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Find all the details and register at oppl.org/march.
Nichelle Stigger is a sixth grade language and literature teacher at Brooks Middle School. Katy Alejos is a grade eight language and literature teacher at Brooks Middle School and chair of the language and literature department.