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Alternate Activity 1: Activist Alphabiography

Activity time: 25 minutes

Materials for Activity

  • Pens and paper

Description of Activity

This activity encourages participants to reflect on their lives and the experiences that have made them aware of who they are and their social justice activity. This activity is based on "Alphabiography Project: Totally You" from the website Read Write Think. Used by permission.

Distribute paper and pencils.

Invite youth to name any biographies they have had to write in school (about Presidents, etc.). Explain that they will create an activist biography about their own lives-the people, places, things, and events that have shaped their awareness of themselves and the justice and injustice that exists in the world-that is, their social justice identity. Acknowledge that participants have not had many years yet to act against injustice. Still, they have had experiences-some of which come easily to mind and others that do not.

Ask participants to think about times they became aware of injustice. When were they in situations like the people in the story-where wrong was taking place? Did anyone point out the situation or urge them to help? Maybe they marched for peace, gave to a justice fundraiser, or gathered signatures to support legislation. They might have read about discrimination in history class or seen a movie about the experiences of a minority. Let participants take a moment to note these experiences on one side of their paper.

Let them know that this biography has a twist. It's an "alphabiography" so they will be writing about a person, place, thing, or event for as many letters of the alphabet as possible. Start with "A" and think of a person, place, thing or event that influenced how they think of social justice that begins with the letter "A." Example might include "Americans of Japanese descent were interred in camps during World War II" or "Amy Jones organized a demonstration at our congregation against the war in Iraq" or "Airport security screens men of Arab descent more often than men of European descent." Help youth find an answer to "A," then invite the group to continue on their own or working with friends. As they go through the alphabet, they should not feel they have to have an entry for every letter. Continue for fifteen minutes.

When fifteen minutes have passed, invite them to discuss what it feels like to write about oneself in this way. What kind of memories occurred during their writing? Were there many people and events that have shaped their views of social justice or do they need more?

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