The Year in Review
Protest Writing Class Empowers Student Voices
During the unforgettable summer of 2020 emotions ran high due to myriad of racial injustices in our country. Many members of the AFS community were eager to use their voices, not only to educate and inspire but also to create empathy and change. Upper School English teacher Bartley (Bart) Jeannoute wanted to give students a platform in which to share their thoughts so he taught a free Protest Writing course for inner-city high schoolers, hosted by local nonprofit Mighty Writers. In a meeting with colleagues in the fall, Bart expressed the need for a space where students could process all that has happened since the AFS campus had closed in the spring. Bart collaborated with the school and reimagined the Mighty Writers course for the Upper School community at AFS. He was eager to welcome both in-person and virtual students to his 11th grade English classroom where he introduced songs, poems, books and articles from writers and artists such as Maya Angelou and Gil Scott Heron. Students learned how to write persuasively in a way that identifies and addresses societal issues, and they did that by studying the best of the best (e.g., Angelou’s poem “Still I Rise” and Langston Hughes’ poem “Let America Be America Again”).
Students are inspired through various mediums so incorporating music also served to stir the soul. For example, they listened to Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song” and Gil Scott Heron’s “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.”
Bart explained the importance of a class like this at an institution like AFS in these times saying, “In this country, we are privileged to the right of free expression. While my students are still too young to vote, I wanted to remind them that they can still be impactful in other ways. Their stories, their experiences, and their voices matter. In my opinion, AFS is a school community that encourages students to speak up about injustices. It’s our job as educators to give students the tools and space to make their voices heard.”
A student in the Protest Writing class, Gabby Warner ’22 echoed Bart’s sentiments and shared, “This class is important in 2020 in the U.S. because it gives us a sense of power. We, as young adults, are told so often that we are ‘too young to understand anything,’ and our opinions are pushed to the side. In actuality, Generation Z has done so much social justice work to influence change in our society. Bart’s class is just another opportunity for us to remind ourselves that there are ways we can have our voices heard.”
Read Gabby’s moving essay entitled Modern Voices and feel the power of the voice of Generation Z.