Tag Archives: martin luther king

I Have a Dream for Haiti

“The curse of poverty has no justification in our age.” – Martin Luther King Jr., from “Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?” (1967)

While many remember King for his “I have a dream” speech, and others idolize him as a symbol for racial equality, one of the less canonized memories of this man was his commitment to ending poverty. At the time of his death, King was in the middle of sending black leaders into the communities hit hardest by economic misfortune in order to start programs that would lift people up.

King understood that the problems inherent in racism were also central to poverty; that race and class were fundamentally intertwined. He knew that he could not make progress on one front without trying to make progress on the other. Yet, while there has been marked progress in both areas, things are nowhere near where they could be.

In our upcoming book, we write about both these issues. We talk a lot about the level of privilege that has been afforded to us on the basis of our skin color, and because of our economic upbringing. We recognize that these factors play a crucial role in our own self-actualization, and that in all likelihood  we would not be as successful as we are if we had been born poor, or black, or latino, etc. We write about the access to food in more diverse communities, and the struggles that people face when looking to work their way out of poverty.

We have written about these issues because we have a responsibility to raise our voices for those who cannot. As people with privilege, we have the means and therefore the responsibility to advocate for others, which is why we often call upon our readers to do whatever they can to help those without. And we will do so again, and again, and again.

This past week the horrors unfolding in Haiti have brought us yet another opportunity to stand up and lend a hand. In addition to worrying about which football team is or isn’t heading to the playoffs, please, spend some time (and money) worrying about the people who have the least, and who have been hit the hardest. The differences between football and disaster are many, but with Haiti, you can actually do something about it. I can think of no better way for all of us to celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr.

– Christopher

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Life Labs and the Community Charter School of Cambridge.

Students at Community Charter School of Cambridge show their surprise when learning that Christopher lost 14 pounds during the One Dollar Diet Project. Photo by Katie Rieser.

During our recent trip to Boston, we had the pleasure of visiting the Community Charter School of Cambridge as guest speakers. At the invitation of a friend and colleague, this visit was both a chance for us to speak to students about our projects related to food and economics, and for us to observe a school that is far different from the ones we teach in.

We spoke to three different classes of ninth grade humanities students, and when we were finished, their questions, and overall inquisitive natures, forced us to reflect on how things have been going, and how our experiments continue to shape our daily lives. These students also knew about the power of this type of experimentation and reflection first hand, as they had recently finished projects of their own.

Over the summer, I had the privilege of being a fellow at the Ahimsa Center for Nonviolence at Cal Poly Pomona, and during my time there I spent two weeks learning about the lives of Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. As a requirement for the fellowship, participants needed to create two lessons for classroom use that would help our students better understand these men, and about some of the concepts related to their lives.

For those who have studied Gandhi, it is clear that he saw much of his life as an experiment. In fact, his autobiography is titled, “My Experiments with Truth” and so I decided that one of my lessons would ask students to do the same thing. They would have to change one thing about their lives for the period of one month in order to learn more about the subject, the world they live in, and ultimately about themselves. I named the project “Life Lab”. While I played around with the idea, a new friend of mine from the institute liked it so much that he decided that he would do something similar with his students in the fall.

Which is what brought us to CCSC. My colleague, Henry, had his students do a “sacrifice” project in connection with their humanities content. In fact, his students completed their projects before my students even began theirs. Like us, students had to do without something, and blog about their experiences. After we were done speaking, the students reported to us that throughout their projects they found that their grades went up, the number of detentions went down, and for some of them it was their favorite assignment to date.

The fact that the concept of our One Dollar Diet Project could be elevated to a class assignment where students choose their own topic and find meaning through experimenting with their lives, is both a powerful testament to trying on new ways of living, and humbling for us as teachers. If only  more schools like CCSC had teachers like Henry who found engaging and unpredictable ways for students to learn, we might just unleash the genius that resides in each student who would otherwise be counting down the minutes on the clock.

– Christopher

ps. In the future, the LifeLab assignment handouts and description will be posted on our site…so, stay tuned!

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