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We don’t have to engage in grand, heroic actions to participate in the process of change. Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world. Even when we don’t “win,” there is fun and fulfillment in the fact that we have been involved, with other good people, in something worthwhile. We need hope.
--Howard Zinn, Voices of a People’s History of the United States
Who can change the world? You can!
Are you making a movie for The People Speak? Need some help getting started? Here are some ideas we came up with. Feel free to use the following prompts as inspiration for you own film, or explore a new topic! And, as always, if you have any questions, contact us.
As a nation, we've come a long way and enjoy many freedoms as a result of the courageous men and women who have gone before us. But we still have a long way to go. What injustices or hardships are you experiencing or witnessing in your life, school, neightborhood? Hunger? Discrimination? Opression? Violence? Bullying?Environmental abuse? How can you make a difference?
HISTORY shows that change can happen through 'ordinary' people…their actions, their voices! Find your own voice!
Martin Luther King (Segregation)
THE BLACK UPSURGE AGAINST RACIAL SEGREGATION
For almost a hundred years after the passage of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to the Constitution, those amendments, guaranteeing the right to vote, proclaiming equal rights for all, were left unenforced by the federal government. In short, for all that time, black people in the South were abandoned by the U.S. government, ignoring the Constitutional rights won after the Civil War. The result was disfranchisement, racial segregation, beatings, and murders.
But under the surface, there was resentment, indignation, and anger. And little forays against the system, most of them unsuccessful and unnoticed.
In 1955, this surface silence was broken with the extraordinary effort by black people in Montgomery, Alabama, to boycott the buses in that city in protest against racial segregation.
(Martin Luther King) We have known humiliation, we have known abusive language, we have been plunged into the abyss of oppression. And we decided to raise up only with the weapon of protest…We must use the weapon of love. We must have compassion and understanding for those who hate us.
Does segregation or inequality still exist? How? Where? (i.e. in the classroom, in education, clubs, membership organizations)
Voices of a People's History - Chapter 17
Susan B. Anthony
THE EARLY WOMEN'S MOVEMENT (Right to Vote)
…the brave actions of women who dared to speak out against oppression in the early nineteenth century.
In 1872, Susan B. Anthony was arrested for “knowingly voting without having a lawful right to vote,” and found guilty. Who would have thought that those committed to the early women’s movement were but the first of several generations of brave women to fight against economic exploitation as well as physical, social, and racial inequality?
The road to the franchise was long and strewn with difficult and often dangerous obstacles. But women persevered. They continued to use their voices to demonstrate that they would not be deterred from achieving their goals.
(Susan B. Anthony) Your denial of my citizen’s right to vote, is the denial of my right of consent as one of the governed, the denial of my right of representation as one of the taxed, the denial of my right to a trial by a jury of my peers as an offender against law; therefore, the denial of my sacred right to life, liberty, property and— [the pursuit of happiness]
Is there still inequality for women in certain sectors?
Oppression pertaining to a particular class, race, religious or political conviction, gender, age, etc.
Voices of a People's History - Chapter 6
Rachel Carson (Environmental movement)
(Rachel Carson)We stand now where two roads diverge. But unlike the roads in Robert Frost’s familiar poem, they are not equally fair. The road we have long been traveling is deceptively easy, a smooth super highway on which we progress with great speed, but at its end lies disaster. The other fork of the road — the one “less travelled by” — offers our last, our only chance to reach a destination that assures the preservation of our earth. The choice, after all, is ours to make.
Environmental conservation - How can we use the earth's resources more efficiently?
Pollution - Air, Land, or Water.
Rachel Carson, Silent Spring (1962)
Tecumseh (Native American Indian)
The defeat of England in the American Revolution paved the way for the colonists to move westward into Indian territory, because the British had proclaimed in 1763 that they could not settle land beyond a certain line at the Appalachian Mountains.
Thus, by 1840, out of a population in the United States of 13 million, 4,500,000 had crossed the mountains into the Mississippi Valley—that huge expanse of land crisscrossed by rivers flowing into the Mississippi from east and west. In 1820, 120,000 Indians lived east of the Mississippi. By 1844, fewer than 30,000 were left. Most of them had been killed or pushed westward by force. It was an early example of what in the late twentieth century, referring to other countries, would be called “ethnic cleansing.”
One of the great figures of early Native resistance to colonization was Tecumseh, a Shawnee leader, who earned a reputation for his skills in fighting white settlers and militias in the Midwest.
Tecumseh’s Speech to the Osages (Winter 1811–12)1
Brothers,—We are friends; we must assist each other to bear our burdens. The blood of many of our fathers and brothers has run like water on the ground, to satisfy the avarice of the white men. We, ourselves, are threatened with a great evil; nothing will pacify them but the destruction of all the red men.
Violation of one's constitutional rights/equality for ALL
Oppression of a certain race or class
Voices of a People's History - Chapter 7
Henry George (Poverty)
Henry George was an itinerant typesetter and newspaper editor who became a skilled lecturer and critic of the economic system. His book Progress and Poverty made him famous, and he ran, unsuccessfully, for mayor of New York several times in the 1880s and 1890s. In this address, delivered in an opera house in Burlington, Iowa, George examines the social roots of poverty in the United States in the nineteenth century, challenging the myth of individual blame.
Henry George, “The Crime of Poverty” (April 1, 1885)1
I propose to talk to you tonight of the Crime of Poverty. I cannot, in a short time, hope to convince you of much; but the thing of things I should like to show you is that poverty is a crime. I do not mean that it is a crime to be poor. Murder is a crime; but it is not a crime to be murdered; and a man who is in poverty, I look upon, not as a criminal in himself, so much as the victim of a crime for which others, as well perhaps as himself, are responsible. That poverty is a curse, the bitterest of curses, we all know...
The curse born of poverty is not confined to the poor alone; it runs through all classes, even to the very rich. They, too, suffer; they must suffer; for there cannot be suffering in a community from which any class can totally escape. The vice, the crime, the ignorance, the meanness born of poverty, poison, so to speak, the very air which rich and poor alike must breathe...
. . . . And it seems to me clear that the great majority of those who suffer from poverty are poor not from their own particular faults, but because of conditions imposed by society at large. Therefore I hold that poverty is a crime—not an individual crime, but a social crime, a crime for which we all, poor as well as rich, are responsible. . . .
What are the effects of poverty today as seen in our neighborhoods (i.e. abandoned houses, inequality in public education, drugs, violence)
The Homeless population
Voices of a People's History - Chapter 11
These are just a few of our ideas. Feel free to explore the world around you for more ideas. Who inspires you? Make a difference by telling their story! The possibilities are unlimited!