Students in several Indianapolis Public Schools locations have had an opportunity to see the movie “Selma,” the film recreating the famous 1965 Selma March for black voting rights. They’ve had many reactions to the film

  • Shock at the level of violence directed at civil rights activists
  • Amazement at the restraint shown by the activists in staying nonviolent
  • Surprise at how many young people and white people were involved in the movement

However, their responses in the assignments they’ve done in class surrounding the film have proven this historic event has contemporary relevance for IPS students.

Daphne Draa, Art Teacher at Center for Inquiry School 2, said of her students, “I was pleased with the connections that they were making between what was going on with the civil rights struggles of the ‘50s and ‘60s and ongoing struggles that people are facing today.” Ferguson, Missouri, came up as a connection for her students, as did contemporary debates about marriage equality.

The CFI School 2 students have had many opportunities to reflect on these issues as they have worked on a number of assignments surrounding their “Selma” experience.

  • In addition to viewing “Selma,” CFI School 2 Music Teacher Brian Hoover had some of his students view the 2009 documentary “Soundtrack of a Revolution.” This gave them some background in “freedom songs that were an integral part of expressing hope, courage and solidarity in the midst of struggle,” Hoover said. Hoover is having his students pick a freedom song and perform their own interpretation of it in class and also giving them a chance to compose a freedom song for a current civil rights issue.
  • Draa’s students each picked their own photo from the civil rights movement, picked one emotional word to describe that photo and then in different artistic works abstracted that image or worked with different colors to evoke that emotion. Luke G., a 7th grader, said the assignment has helped him see “how bad it used to be, how much better it is now, but it’s not gone.”
  • Students walked to the Landmark for Peace Memorial in Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Park. “I thought it kind of felt like we were marching,” 7th grader Olivia R. said. There they met with the artist who designed the sculpture and talked with people who actually heard Robert Kennedy’s speech in Indianapolis on April 4, 1968, upon hearing of King’s death.
  • Lucy S., a 6th grade student, said, “I liked the sculpture because it was like one guy reaching out to another in friendship.”
  • Araya H., a 7th grade student, noted the scrapbook she and her fellow students made in Erik Catellier’s Language Arts class. Each student wrote about a different, lesser known civil rights hero, made a scrapbook page about that person and then the class put all the pages together into one civil rights scrapbook. She said the assignment “helps us not forget what people went through for us to be where we’re at today.”

Nikia Garland, Language Arts teacher at Broad Ripple Magnet High School for the Arts and Humanities, took her students to see “Selma” and then asked them to write a stream of consciousness reflection on the film.

“‘Selma’ was both inspirational and motivating. Dr. King never gave up no matter how much hatred he received. He continued the fight for civil rights. He set a good example for today’s generation showing that you don’t have to fight physically for what is right,” wrote 9th grader Davon C.

“Mostly I was angry because America was built on the idea that everyone was equal and yet we treated a majority of citizens like garbage because of their skin tone. I am proud to be an American, but watching this movie made me ashamed to be human,” wrote 10th grader Monique I.

These are not dry responses to the historic event. These students, like those at CFI School 2, connected the past events in Selma to their own experiences here and now.

We’re happy so many of our students have had a chance to see “Selma,” and we’re proud of the way our teachers have challenged them to connect that history to themselves and their lives!