General Questions To Ask About Policing
Whose interests are advanced?
Who pays the costs?
Who/What is protected and served?
Who is bullied and brutalized?
How has policing evolved over the years?
Can you envision a world without police?
What might be some alternatives to policing?
#1 – 6 Words about Policing and Violence
I have found 6 word stories to be good opening activities (especially if you are limited in terms of time). You can figure out what young people/students already know & think about various issues and can effectively engage a group. I have created an activity that includes watching a video, discussing it, and then facilitating a 6 word story activity. This was created for an event I co-organized last year. Download the instructions HERE (PDF).
If time is an issue, you can substitute the video suggested in the curriculum template with this 2 minute one produced by Buzzfeed using Shirin-Banou Barghi’s powerful series of graphics depicting the last words of unarmed black men killed by police. I shared her graphics here.
Some examples of 6 word stories are:
Walked outside. Did nothing. Cop Harassed. [by me]
Cops said my bruises would fade. [by me]
You can also switch it up by asking students/youth to write a 6 word story for the families of the murdered men featured in Barghi’s graphics as well as others.
#2 – Activity Guide
A couple of years ago, I created an activity guide to help youth workers and educators discuss police violence with young people. You can find some introductory activities there too.
Historical Timelines of Policing
#1 – Interactive Timeline
We focus on political education at Project NIA. As such, we create many resources and tools that can help with that work. A couple of years ago, Lewis Wallace, Jessie Lee Jackson and Megan Milks (3 of our volunteers) created an interactive timeline that covers the history of policing in the U.S. from pre-colonial times to the present. You can find that timeline here.
#2 — Interactive Activity
In addition, Lewis developed an interactive activity about the history of policing and violence that can be downloaded HERE.
#3 — History Zines
In late 2011, I decided to develop a series of pamphlets to inform and educate community members about the longstanding tradition of oppressive policing toward marginalized populations (including some activists and organizers).
This series titled “Historical Moments of Policing, Violence & Resistance” features pamphlets on various topics including: The Mississippi Black Papers, the 1968 Democratic Convention, Resistance to Police Violence in Harlem, the 1937 Memorial Day Massacre, Oscar Grant, the Danziger Bridge Shootings, among others. The pamphlets are available for free downloading here. They are youth-friendly and each publication includes a set of discussion questions.
#1 – Music
I created and have regularly updated an interactive timeline tracing how rappers have discussed the issue of police violence since 1980. Educator friends have used the timeline to invite their students to analyze lyrics. They have also encouraged students/youth to write their own poems or raps.
#2 – Visual Art
In March 2013, we curated an intergenerational visual art exhibition about policing, violence and resistance. You can encourage students to view the online exhibit and then to create their own visual art.
Have your students read this comic about police violence by my friend Rachel Marie-Crane Williams and then create their own comics.
#3 – Poetry
I love poetry so I collected several that focus on police violence. You can find that collection HERE (PDF).
A Different Approach to School Safety – a short film that features a high school that doesn’t have metal detectors or police officers on site.
Death of Two Sons: Death of Two Sons tells the story of Amadou Diallo, the West African immigrant shot 41 times by four New York City police officers in 1999, and of Jesse Thyne, an American Peace Corps Volunteer who lived with Amadou’s family in his home village in Guinea. Jesse himself died in Guinea less than a year after the Diallo shooting. This film explores the political, personal, and spiritual implications of their lives and deaths. Death of Two Sons shows the common humanity shared by these young men, their families, and their nations.
Fruitvale Station: The film tells the story of Oscar Grant, a young black man from Oakland, who was shot and killed on a train platform by a Bay Area Regional Transit police officer named Johannes Mehserle. He was subsequently found not guilty for second-degree murder, but found guilty of involuntary manslaughter and sentenced to two years in County Jail for pulling a gun and killing a unarmed man.
The Hunted and the Hated: An Inside Look at the NYPD’s Stop-and-Frisk Policy (under 15 minutes)
I Am Sean Bell – Black Boys Speak (10 minutes): Young boys reflect on the Sean Bell tragedy, speaking out about their fears and hopes as they approach manhood in a city where the lives of young black men are often cut short.
Law and Disorder: This Frontline documentary explored a series of questionable shootings by the New Orleans police department during Hurricane Katrina.
Murder On A Sunday Morning: Oscar-winning documentary that documents a murder trial in which a 15-year-old African-American is wrongfully accused of a 2000 murder in Jacksonville, Florida. The film also shows how police can lie.
Scenes of a Crime: “SCENES OF A CRIME” explores a nearly 10-hour interrogation that culminates in a disputed confession, and an intense, high-profile child murder trial in New York state.
Tulia Texas: On July 23, 1999, undercover narcotics agent Thomas Coleman carried out one of the biggest drug stings in Texas history. By the end of the blazing summer day, dozens of residents in the sleepy farming town of Tulia had been rounded up and thrown behind bars. Thirty-nine of the 46 people accused of selling drugs to Coleman were African American. But disturbing evidence about the undercover investigation and Coleman’s past soon began to surface. TULIA,TEXAS follows the 1999 raid and its aftermath, which roiled the small rural community.
‘We Deserve Better’: A short documentary that explores police targeting and harassment of LGBTQ young people in New Orleans.
#1. Showing Up for Racial Justice has compiled a police brutality action kit.
#2. List of Demands focused on Ferguson and Ending Police Violence – Have students/youth read the list of demands from various different organizations and evaluate the three or four that they feel would most contribute to ending police violence. Invite students to come up with their own local list of demands. You can also show the Dream Defenders’s video that lists their demands and do the same activity:
#3. Show the video of the Chicago Moment of Silence Vigil, one of many that took place on August 14th in response to the call for a National Moment of Silence in response to the killing of Mike Brown. Students/youth will notice that this was an intergenerational gathering led by young people of color. It’s a good way to begin a conversation about how young people are currently organizing around these issues.
#4. Hands Up United is a coalition that has emerged to support the residents of Ferguson MO. If students/youth want to do solidarity events/activities with Ferguson this is a good place to connect with.
#5. October 22 is the National Day of Protest Against Police Brutality. Encourage your students to organize something on that day or to join existing organizing efforts.