Home News Center Read This! Black History Month Reading and Discussion on Resistance

Read This! Black History Month Reading and Discussion on Resistance

January 30, 2020
Courtney M. McSwain

One of NJJN’s primary goals is to support our member organizations, allies and partners to embrace anti-racist youth justice advocacy as the foundation of our work collectively. In doing so, we encourage you to create spaces for discussion on matters related to racial justice and anti-racism advocacy, such as the power of people’s resistance to oppression. 

Popular historical narratives often suppress the true nature of resistance efforts by marginalized people in order to uphold oppressive power dynamics. Upending those narratives and shedding light on the truth of resistance allows us to find inspiration and belief in our collective ability to bring about change. As we prepare to celebrate and honor Black History Month, we’ve curated three articles that explore Black resistance alongside a few discussion questions to spark dialogue and reflection. 

The U.S. Has Been Silencing Black Girls’ Voices for Decades,” by Jessica Feierman and Ashley C. Sawyer, TeenVogue.com, October 7, 2019. 

This powerful article was co-written by Ashley C. Sawyer – NJJN YJLI alum and Girls for Gender Equity Director of Policy and Government Relations – and Jessica Feierman – Juvenile Law Center Senior Managing Director. The article lifts up acts of resistance by black girls fighting for civil rights, including a group of girls who were arrested and held for 45 days in Americus Georgia in 1963 and a high school student who was arrested for speaking out during an act of police violence against a fellow student in 2015. The article goes on to show how the voices of black girls resisting discrimination have been systemically silenced. READ ARTICLE

What You Still Don't Know About Abolitionists” by Manisha Sinha, Time.com, June 17, 2016.  

In this article, historian and author Manisha Sinha explains the critical, and often silenced, history of slave resistance and abolitionist participation. Those who were enslaved actively worked to end slavery by becoming fugitives and fueling the abolitionist movement, radicalizing abolitionist discourse by telling their experiences within slavery, and creating The Underground Railroad among other actions. These acts of resistance should be understood as evidence that enslaved African Americans were very much active in their own liberation. READ ARTICLE

Black Joy is Resistance: Why We Need a Movement to Balance Black Triumph With Trials” by Kleaver Cruz, BlackYouthProject.com, December 12, 2017.

Kleaver Cruz, creator of The Black Joy Project, shares why he created a visual social media campaign to display images of black joy as an act of resistance. The social justice organizer began to feel burnout in 2015 as stories of Black pain dominated the news. Deciding that constantly consuming and re-sharing those stories was traumatizing, Cruz committed to showing “Black people’s everyday commitment to locating joy in our lives.” Cruz calls The Black Joy Project, “a digital and real-world effort to center Black joy as a form of resistance.” READ ARTICLE

Questions to spark your discussion…

  1. Why do you think resistance efforts are frequently silenced by history?

  2. How does reclaiming the history of resistance help social justice efforts today?

  3. Why is joy an important part of resistance?

  4. How can youth justice advocates ensure current narratives of resistance continue to get shared? 

Was this resource helpful for your organization to discuss Black History Month and resistance? Let us know!

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