Friday, February 27, 2009
hop on for history
King Middle School was the scene of a powerful connection to living history this week. Claudette Colvin was 15 in 1955 when she refused to give up her seat to a white passenger on a Montgomery, Alabama bus. This act led eventually to the desegregation of public transportation in the South. Librarian Kelly McDaniel and Curious City's Kirsten Cappy brought together book discussions, image-making, and an art exhibit on a public bus in the Understanding Courage project, an awesome opportunity to bring history full circle.
My daughter was among a group of students who read the recently released "Claudette Colvin: Twice Towards Justice" by Maine author, Phillip Hoose and worked with Maine College of Art art ed majors to create posters in response to the book. The posters were done on the backs of actual bus posters, narrow horizontals that slide into the captive space over the bus windows. It was a departure for her, prone to drawing puppies and dragons, to conceive an image in response to a chosen quote from the book. Talk about visual communication!
We viewed the poster display on the METRO bus while it was parked in front of the school on Wednesday. We found her piece at the very back of the bus. She chose Dr. King's quote: "And we are determined here in Montgomery to work and fight until justice runs down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream."
I also liked her classmate Fiona Cagney's piece.
The MECA students also did posters. This one by Katy Hughes is colorful and direct.
While we were on board, another class from King jostled on to view the exhibit.
Inside the school, students gathered to hear Phillip Hoose and Claudette Colvin speak.
She made the point: young people can make a difference. Most of the students had questions about her emotions: how did you feel when they arrested you? What was it like to meet Martin Luther King? How did you feel when Obama was elected? King Middle School is proudly diverse, boasting 29 languages spoken amongst the student body. It could be hard for them to imagine that when Claudette was their age, she could not try on clothes or shoes when shopping. She brought a tracing of her foot to size a potential purchase.
MECA student Sam Wunster's poster quoted Claudette, "I knew then and I knew now that when it comes to justice, there's no easy way to get it. You have to take a stand and say this is not right."
Thankyou, Claudette Colvin, for taking that stand! Applause to Phillip Hoose for a gripping story. And bravo to King Middle School, that knows how to bring history alive for kids. It's not just learning the facts, it's understanding courage.
The exhibit will be on this bus for about another week. Hop on!