Don’t Underestimate Young People

By Yonsoo Kang, VA Middle School Program Coordinator
Photos courtesy of Yonsoo Kang

Hello again!

In lieu of the recent election, it is undeniable that there has been a rise in incidents of hate, bigotry, and prejudice in schools around the country. I wanted to design a lesson for my AALEADers so they could see past and current scene of people who expressed hate and how others have decided to respond. Instead of using dreaded PowerPoint slides, we decided to create a gallery made up of words and visuals showing different forms of oppression as well as marginalized groups using their voice to fight back.

When choosing the pictures, we wanted to avoid the cliche ones found in school textbooks like MLK’s I Have A Dream photo or marchers in DC so we searched for incidents and movements that were not so well known.

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Anti-Chinese Race Riots in Denver, 1880

Goals in Mind
1) Give voice to the voiceless.
2) Show how hate and oppression may look different over time but they actually stays the same.
3) Fighting for what is right is not always popular.
4) Provide examples of brave people who stood and stand up against injustice.

Breakdown of the Activity
First, everyone was given a reflection handout to write down how they felt about certain images. It was crucial the youth had time to debrief and process their thoughts after seeing powerful and sometimes graphic images. Second, the youth treated our space like a art gallery.

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They quietly walked around the room, looking at pictures, and whispering to one another.

Youth thoughtfully analyze the photos along the gallery

Youth thoughtfully analyze the photos along the gallery


There were post its available for youth to write down comments or draw “likes” for the displayed images.

People Protesting Against MLK

People Protesting Against MLK

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Finally, we all gathered together and AALEDers shared why certain visuals were really powerful to them.

“I chose [Malcolm X’s quote] because I’ve been going through a lot what he says and no longer felt alone.  I could just relate to it because he seems to understand exactly how I’m feeling. That’s why I like it.”Junie H.

“I like [Maya Angelou’s quote] because I think girls need to speak up and stand up for themselves.  It makes me feel good and strong when I read it.” – Alejandra V.

“Why do they treat them like that because they’re gay?  They are people too and should be happy.” – Chananchida M.

Many adults tend to forget just how young people are deep and thoughtful.  Providing them with an open environment, youth can empathize with others, analyze their own feelings, and perceive discrepancies between words and actions.   Don’t underestimate young folks and you will be amazed at what they can do.

It’s gonna be great!


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