To expose students to role models who are working for social justice, and to offer practical tips and tactics for reducing prejudice and discrimination.
Assemble a panel of 3-6 local activists who are successfully working for social justice, either on the same issue or on a variety of issues. Ideally, these individuals should be diverse in age, race, gender, and other attributes.
Open the session by asking students to write down good discussion questions as they listen to the panelists speak. Then briefly introduce the panelists and ask each one to give a 5-10 minute overview of their work (30 minutes for the full panel), including information on:
- What they are doing and why
- Strategies they've found to be effective or ineffective
- Challenges they face and techniques to overcome them
- The main results of their work
- How they avoid burnout and keep themselves going
- Plans they have for the future
- Advice they have for beginning activists
After the panelists have spoken, open the floor for questions and answers. If time permits, you may also follow the discussion phase with an informal reception (e.g., with snacks and beverages) in which students can talk individually with the panelists.
Be sure to give panelists the topic list above at least one week before the session so they have time to think about the topics in advance. Also, be very clear with panelists that they will only have 5-10 minutes for their introductory comments (in order to leave ample time for discussion). Finally, you may wish to prepare a list of organizations for students interested in learning more about social justice work and opportunities available in the local community.
Adapted from pages 128-129 of Derman-Sparks, L., & Phillips, C. B. (1997). Teaching/Learning Anti-Racism: A Developmental Approach. New York: Teachers College Press.