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Ideas and Resources For Teaching The Jordan Davis Murder Verdict

Written by Chris Lehmann
February 19, 2014

Ideas and Resources

  • Apparently Don Lemon was furious about the verdict. Seems as good an anticipatory set as anything else.
  • What is the relationship between law and justice? Can be connected to excerpts from Thoreau on Civil Disobedience.
  • How do societies change? What is the role of individuals to demand change? Can connect to 198 Methods of Nonviolent Action. I find that some students respond to issues by saying, “That’s just the way things are…” I believe it is crucial to remind young people that history is filled with struggles for and periods of change. Film clips can be very helpful to remind students of historical moments when people mobilized to demand change. Here is a powerful clip from Egypt. The film The Democratic Promise has some parts that resonate with students. (It is in parts on YouTube. This is part 1.)
  • Patricia Hill Collins’ book The Alchemy of Race and Rights has a powerful section on Critical Legal Studies using the example of Eleanor Bumpers. She does a great job picking apart the way society and language can steer the conversation away from what is morally right. It is a great starting point for picking apart something like Stand Your Ground.
  • Depending on the age and the group people can consider using some of Augusto Boal’s tools from Theater of the Oppressed. This activity from Training for Change is another possibility for enabling students to explore ways to speak up against injustice.
  • Ta-Nehisi Coates has a powerful essay about the verdict in the Atlantic. http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2014/02/on-the-killing-of-jordan-davis-by-michael-dunn/283870/
  • One thing I have been thinking about is the ease with which certain words get thrown around, like “thug”; is there a place within the conversation with the kids to talk about how the words they use matter? Perhaps finding examples in media of how language is used to support stereotypes and how language can also subvert them?
  • Another thing I have thought about is the role of schools in teaching empathy. Is it a good idea to include in the lesson a place for students to practice deep listening? http://www.contemplativemind.org/practices/tree/deep-listening
  • This could be an interesting way into the conversation… this would take some time, but if someone was interested in building this into more than a day http://sfi.usc.edu/creatingcharacter/docs/LP_JusticeFairness_CC_002.pdf
  • I would address some of the facts of the trial and also the humanity behind it. The CNN video where Jordan Davis’s parents talk about him is powerful, because he retains his humanity.
  • I would make sure that some time is spent (after the initial chat about the feelings in the room) learning about the history of stand your ground laws.  http://www.nyclu.org/knowyourrights
  • I would make sure that some time is spent going over that terms like “murder” and “manslaughter” mean. And the choices that prosecutors make when going for each distinction — and how “Stand Your Ground” affects those choices in Florida.
  • There is enough “living history” from the civil rights movement still around – I would find a way to bring in someone who was around for Emmett Till (Possible Resource – http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/eyesontheprize/story/01_till.html)  (or any other such vigilante injustice) and have a conversation linking now and “then.” I am bringing in a few folks to speak to my kids about the race riots that they have witnessed – could be a similar opportunity. And if the notice is too short – there is no shortage of 1st person interviews / news reports / other primary sources to explore and pick through for similarities. No shortage of questions to ask about what they see.
  • I have had some fairly explosive conversations about my own dealings with the police / would be vigilantes / and so have many of my mentees and students. I think that any conversation has to take into account that many of them have their own stories to tell about this kind of injustice – and they need to be given the space to talk. Many of the kids have stop and frisk stories that they would be quick to relate to what happened in these famous cases. Their family members have been through it. Many opportunities for connection.
  • After the Trayvon Martin murder verdict, the QED Foundation published a page of resources for talking to kids about the verdict. Some of these links may be useful entry points for talking with kids about the Jordan Davis case: http://qedfoundation.org/resources-for-talking-to-your-kids-about-the-case-of-trayvon-martin
  • I screen Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing (a well done film review by Roger Ebert) in Senior Reel Reading and we explore how this film is a vehicle for social commentary. One character, Radio Raheem, is killed by white police after an enraged incident in Sal’s Pizzeria over the volume of his boom box. However, it’s not so black and white (pardon the pun), and there are many, many gray areas. Versions of this kind of story can be seen in the Howard Beach incident (which inspired Do the Right Thing), the Jordan Davis case, and countless cases in between and yet to come. While a 1989 film, it is still so relevant today.
  • I want them to maybe look at some key PA laws here and compare to Florida laws. “How am I in danger?” “Am I?” I want my students to see AZ laws and the fact that they’re currently fast-tracking a Stand Your Ground Law in our state.