Rest in Power: Tributes to the Lives of Young Black Men

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As a part of the Black Lives Matter at School Week of Action, students in Beth Barkley’s Human Rights and Social Action classes at Cardozo Education Campus (DCPS) created a tribute to the young Black men who have lost their lives to police brutality. Inspired by Kim Spott’s #LastWords lesson and the Good Men Project’s #LastWords: A Tribute to Men Killed by Police, students started by reflecting on the last words of young Black men.

Students viewed a series of 12 quotes. For each quote, they wrote their initial thoughts, feelings, reactions, and questions/wonderings.

At first, students were not provided any context for the quotes, and initial quotes read, “Mom, I’m going to college” and “I love you too!” After a pivotal quote that read, “….,” which students later found out was because Jonathan Ferrell was shot before he even had an opportunity to speak his last words, it became more obvious how the quotes were connected with explicit, innocent questions and statements like, “Officers, why do you have your guns out?” and “I don’t have a gun. Stop shooting.”

The second time students saw each quote, they were provided context and again reflected in their notebooks, many of them in disbelief, disgust, and outrage that someone could so wrongly and unjustly be killed just because of the color of their skin.

Following the reflection, each group was assigned one of the young black men to research and to learn more about, not as victims of police brutality and injustice, but as people, sons, brothers, fathers, students, etc. Ms. Barkley and her students discussed how many marginalized groups are silenced. Many are quietly forgotten or else only remembered as being shot and killed, as a statistic, which is why this project is so important. The discussion continued, "We cannot let blackness be a crime in our country. We must advocate for change.” Ms. Barkley and her students decided to start with education.  

They wanted to remember and honor the young Black men for their accomplishments, ambitions, dreams for the future, and for their love and kindness. In order to do this, after researching each individual, students created posters, highlighting who each young Black man was as a person. The posters also include pictures, many of them in graduation caps and gowns or smiling for their followers on social media and finally, their last words.

The posters are displayed in the hallway at Cardozo with the message, “Rest in Power.”

Mon2019Mykella Palmer