Black and Brown Activism in Education


This working group explores the critical student activist work by black and brown students. Separated into two weeks we explore both activism in K-12 spaces, as well as the work done by higher education students. Topic explored include the fight for cultural spaces, a recent controversy at Penn Law, and the role of youth organizing as a developmental context for black and latinx adolescents.


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In this ABC podcast episode, Philly in Focus: Student Activism, we discuss Philadelphia as a center of student activism. Exploring past and present activism we delve into the 1967 Student Walkouts we meet with Dr. Walter Palmer. Moving into contemporary times we discuss the recent Amy Wax Law controversy, and finish with a dynamic conversation with a current high school student activist and co-creator of UrbED.

Week 1: Beyond K-12 - Readings

Topic: Modern Activism

Supplemental Readings


Week 1: Beyond K-12 - Class

Opening Activity: Gallery Walk & Defining Key Terms

The first class opened with a gallery walk: a combination of images taped to the walls, and key terms written on the white boards, invited students to respond with their own definition,s questions, examples and contentions of the following topics:

  • White Privilege

  • Safe space

  • Black / Brown

  • Diversity

  • Activism


The carousel slider below displays images used for the gallery walk.


Discussion and Provocation

Following the Gallery Walk exercise, the working group led a discussion debrief of key terms.

Following, the class screened a ten minute clip from “Safe & Sound”, an episode of the TV Series Grownish. This clip provoked conversation on the nature of college activism, identity politics, and the construction of activist identities on higher education campuses.



Following break, the class was divided into two halves and asked to debate a question. One half was assigned taking a for- stance, the other against. The question of the debate was:

  • Do we need cultural groups / safe spaces on campus?

The group assigned an in-favor stance took the argument that “yes, safe spaces are needed on college campuses.

The group assigned an against stance chose to subvert the debate arguing that, “No, safe spaces are not enough, we need counter spaces / activist spaces.”

After final arguments and judging, time was set aside to process the debate and its connection with the week’s readings



Week 2: K-12 - Readings

Topic: School Segregation / Inequality in Schools  

Supplemental Readings

Students across the country are walking out to rally and advocate for the Clean Dream Act - a piece of legislation that will allow undocumented youth to obtain citizenship.

Week 2: K-12 - Class

The Working Group invited guest speakers from three youth “activist” organizations to share their knowledge and experiences. These organizations were (1) Urban Education Advocates, (2) the Girls Justice League and (3), the Philadelphia Youth Commission. To introduce the groups to the a whole class, the working groups asked the guest:

  • What group are you here representing and what is your role in that group?

Discussion Groups

  • How did get involved with student activism either as a supporter or current student activist?

  • What is challenging about the work that you do?

  • Talk about a recent event that your group was a part of or organized. How was this even representative of your work?

  • What past activist events/ movements most influenced or inspired your current work?

Invited Guests