Joslin Goes to Selma, a Field Study During Black History Month

CHICAGO--February 26, 2015--Even a slushy and snowy morning could not dampen the spirits of students and staff at Perspectives Rodney D. Joslin Campus who crowded the Ford City AMC Theaters to see Selma during Black History Month.

"Selma," nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture, chronicles the civil-rights movement protests that led to the enactment of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Central to the story is the Alabama march from Selma to Montgomery. It took several tries to complete the protest, with state troopers assaulting peaceful black participants during the first attempt, and ultimately the effort compelled President Lyndon Johnson to endorse the bill.

In partnership with DonorsChoose.org, Google offered to cover the cost of movie tickets and transportation expenses so that teachers could show students the Oscar-nominated film that details Martin Luther King Jr.’s civil rights campaign in 1965.

The students at Joslin are learning valuable lessons from the Civil Rights movement that apply to modern day challenges they face today. "Almost 50 years have gone by, and people think about Martin Luther King more within the context of a textbook," principal Stephen Todd said. "I felt this was a great opportunity for our young people who are regular movie-goers to bring to life the story of the Civil Rights movement.”

After the film, students were shuttled back to their classrooms where they engaged in critical conversations to reflect on the movie. “Our teachers led simultaneous class discussions to encourage thoughtful reflections about the film,” said program manager Maribel Moreno. “The responses of our students reflect how mature they are when it comes to making insightful parallels of 1968 America to that of their current day challenges right here in Chicago.”

Like many of her peers, Chaise, a sixth grader at Joslin, felt very emotional in response to the film’s portrayal of tense race relations, inequality and the frightful side of cruelty. “I was very upset to see humans treat other humans like trash and beat them like they’re wild animals,” said Chaise. “It made me angry to know it took so long for society to realize that every person matters.”

Students were compelled to think about the theory of nonviolence promoted by Dr. King and many of them practice the theory in their "I Am for Peace" movement to promote peace. Many felt encouraged by the film to treat others with dignity and respect and to use skills like negotiation, demonstration and marching to achieve their goals of a more peaceful Chicago.

At Perspectives, we live the 26 principles of A Disciplined Life to help students develop positive self-perception, healthy relationships and the tools for productivity. One of the 26 principles is to “be generous” and we recognize and appreciate the philanthropic gesture that Google made to make this learning experience a reality for our students and staff. Another principle of A Disciplined Life is to “show gratitude.” Thank you Google and DonorsChoose.org for the opportunity to watch Selma and incorporate it into our lessons about the Civil Rights movement.