From the Grateful Dead’s Black Peter, a compelling way to examine ourselves and our country
Dear Friends and Colleagues,
This past October we wrote about how to better understand the factors that contribute to our personal stress, along with information to enhance our resiliency as we take on our daily personal and worldly challenges. We included information about Resmaa Menakem’s book My Grandmother’s Hands. Mr. Menakem helps us better understand how our own history and that of our predecessors can impact our emotional and physical health, and implores that we must better understand all of this in order to heal ourselves and others around us.
Over all the years of being at Grateful Dead concerts, I was always taken by the self-reflection aspect of the song Black Peter, particularly when Jerry Garcia powerfully sang, “See here how everything lead up to this day!” After reading My Grandmother’s Hands, this refrain once again came to mind.
Now, as we gain more and more political will to overcome the inequities and indignities of racism, this call for reflection of how we got to this day seems more important than ever. As part of our collaboration with educators that are part of the Human Rights Education Community of NCSS (National Council for the Teaching of Social Studies), we have just published our Teaching Guide on Furthering Racial Justice By Examining The Right To Vote and Participate in One’s Government. This Guide, as with the Teaching Guide we published in September on the right to vote, is part of our collaborative effort to provide innovative teaching tools that help relate human rights with current issues.
The premise of this Teaching Guide is that if a person is not enfranchised in their society, they cannot fully participate in that society, such as, to help generate policies and laws and vote for their desired representatives.
We provide links to resources to better understand the history of racism and the history of voting rights in the U.S., including the following:
- What racism is and its impacts: https://www.dismantlingracism.org/racism-defined.html
- Vital to moving toward racial justice is knowing more about the history of racism that has brought us to this moment in time. The following History of the Race Construct in America, provided by dRworks, offers a start to this understanding:
- Here is a related article, contained within the dRworks resources, that provides insights as to how race became a way to divide people in their efforts to overcome oppressive tactics by their employers: “How Oligarchs used race to divide and conquer” https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/how-wealthy-americans-divided-and-conquered-the-poor-to-create-the-concept-of-race/2016/04/19/2cab6e38-0643-11e6-b283-e79d81c63c1b_story.html
- U.S. Voting Rights Timeline 1776 -2002: https://a.s.kqed.net/pdf/education/digitalmedia/us-voting-rights-timeline.pdf
- Winning the Vote: A History of Voting Rights by Steven Mintz, The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History: https://www.gilderlehrman.org/history-resources/essays/winning-vote-history-voting-rights
- Stacey Abrams Documentary Film All In: The Fight for Democracy that examines the history of voter suppression in the U.S., along with the efforts to achieve equal access to the right to vote: https://www.kpbs.org/news/2020/sep/15/all-documentary-looks-voter-suppression/
- Timeline of U. S. Voter Suppression, as provided by the University of Houston-Clear Lake: https://www.uhclthesignal.com/wordpress/2018/10/25/timeline-history-of-voter-suppression-in-the-united-states/
Within the Teaching Guide we provide discussion questions to provoke deeper thinking about the information provided.
While we created this Guide as a resource for educators, we hope that in whatever efforts you’re involved, you will consider how the Guide is helpful to you and others in your communities, as food for thought, conversation and action.
The image here of Ida B. Wells-Barnett, with her thoughtful advice to shed light on the truth as a way to right wrongs, can inspire us to grasp the truth of our history that has brought us to this day. We can be part of furthering racial justice by acting on this truth to, among other social justice imperatives, insure that voter rights for everyone are upheld. We can speak up to our representatives to make sure that current efforts to suppress votes are turned back. We can support and get involved with organizations focused on ensuring the right to vote.
Most of all, as we reconcile with the truth of what has brought us to this day, we can envision the future that is possible from our efforts to face and right wrongs.
With appreciation and best regards,
Sandy Sohcot, Director
The letterpress image of Ida B. Wells-Barnett quote is from Blackbird Letterpress. They have collections of amazing cards and art: https://www.blackbirdletterpress.com/inspiring-women/ida-b-wells-letterpress-card
Learn More about Ida B. Wells: https://www.nps.gov/people/idabwells.htm