Seventh grade students at Brooklyn Middle STEAM School recently participated in a presentation with Ayenna Davis about her family experiences spending summers in Selma, Alabama and the civil rights march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge.
Davis, a former teacher, spoke to students about her family's experience in Selma. She taught students about a bridge in Selma that is still named after Edmund Pettus, who was a former Confederate brigadier general, U.S. senator, and state-level leader of the Alabama Ku Klux Klan. Her aunt and mother were foot soldiers who marched in protest across the bridge. The Edmund Pettus Bridge was the site of the conflict of Bloody Sunday on March 7, 1965, when police attacked Civil Rights Movement demonstrators with horses, billy clubs, and tear gas as they were attempting to march to the state capital.
Davis also talked to students about the history of the n-word, calling it one of the most powerful yet ugliest words in history. She told students about the fight for the right to vote, sit-ins and freedom rides. She urged students to look around the room at their classmates and think about what it took to get to this point.
“Cherish the fact that you get to have this education. Cherish what they did for you and work harder,” Davis told the students.
Many of the themes that Davis talked about will show up in the book that seventh grade students will be reading: “March,” an autobiographical black and white graphic novel about the Civil rights movement, told through the perspective of civil rights leader and U.S. Congressman John Lewis.
The students were encouraged to ask questions and engage in the presentation. Students asked about why people judge others based on the color of their skin and why Pettus’ name is still on the bridge.
Interested in learning more about Brooklyn Middle STEAM School? Visit district279.org/magnet.