- Roxanne Shirazi, Juliet Young
- Higher Education, Composition and Rhetoric, U.S. History, Sociology
- Material Type:
- Lesson Plan
- Community College / Lower Division, College / Upper Division
- Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial
- Media Formats:
- Downloadable docs
Community Meeting Flier: "Have your say in planning your community college"
In this lesson, students use three artifacts from the Community College 7 collection of the CUNY Digital History Archive that relate to the Bedford-Stuyvesant-based community movement of the late 1960s for a public college for the Black and Puerto Rican youth of central Brooklyn, a movement which led to the establishment of Medgar Evers College. The purpose of this lesson is for students to explore and practice strategies that community activists and organizers use to engage others in social justice issues that they feel are important and demand action. As they do so, students learn how, during the racial justice and freedom struggles of the mid-1960s and early 1970s, New York City college students and youth took action to shape the City University of New York.
This lesson plan was created by Juilet Young, a doctoral student in the Ph.D. Program in Urban Education at the CUNY Graduate Center, for the CUNY Digital History Archive in Spring 2022.
Download the PDF in the resource library located on the right of this page for a print-friendly version.
Archival sources used in this lesson plan:
Youth in Action, “February 1968 Youth in Action Flyer: 'Have Your Say in Planning for Your Community College',” CUNY Digital History Archive, https://cdha.cuny.edu/items/show/13632.
In this February 1968 flyer distributed in the Bedford-Stuyvesant community of Central Brooklyn, educational advocacy groups and community-based organizations responded immediately and forcefully to the announcement by the City University of New York (CUNY) of the development of a new community college in their community. Youth in Action (YiA), a Bedford-Stuyvesant-based anti-poverty organization, organized a mass, open meeting at which New York political leaders and CUNY officials would be invited to clarify their plans for the new college and respond to the community’s questions. YiA issued a special invitation to youth of Central Brooklyn to join the meeting to “[s]peak out now,” and “[h]ave your say in planning for your community college.”
MacFarland, Lois, “Press Release – A New Experimental College,” CUNY Digital History Archive, https://cdha.cuny.edu/items/show/2461.
In this press release, The City University of New York's Office of University Relations announces the creation of a new, experimental, two-year college to be "established on a community-oriented basis in central Brooklyn." The press release coincided with a formal announcement made by CUNY officials at the office of the Brooklyn Borough President on February 1, 1968. The news of CUNY's plan would quickly reach the ears of Bedford-Stuyvesant community leaders, such as Walter Pinkston and Al Vann, who felt the university had not had any early consultation with the very community it had planned to center the new college around. The desire for a participatory role in the college's creation would persist throughout the college's formative years and, ultimately, it would define the development of Community College No. 7 (later named Medgar Evers College).
Jordan, Ulysses , “February 1968 Memo and Press Release from Youth in Action,” CUNY Digital History Archive, https://cdha.cuny.edu/items/show/13432.
In this February 6, 1968 memo, the leaders of Youth in Action (YiA), an anti-poverty organization based in Bedford-Stuyvesant, responded to CUNY’s announcement of a new community college in their community, expressing grave concerns that community members of Central Brooklyn had not been consulted about plans or programming for the newly proposed college. In the memo, the YiA leaders invited prominent political leaders and CUNY officials, including Senator Robert Kennedy, Mayor John Lindsay, and Judge Thomas Jones to an open meeting with the Bedford-Stuyvesant community, to clarify CUNY’s plans for the new college, and respond to questions from the community.
Community Meeting Flier:
“Have your say in planning your community college”
CUNY Graduate Center and Brooklyn College
In this lesson students consider the strategies that activists and organizers use to engage and mobilize others in social justice issues. They begin by identifying a social justice issue affecting students at their college or university. Then, they analyze a flier created by the Bedford-Stuyvesant-based organization Youth in Action in February 1968 inviting young people from central Brooklyn to share their opinions, views and priorities for a new public college that the Board of Higher Education (BoHE) had planned in and for that neighborhood. (Officials had planned and proposed that initiative in response to the demands of Bedford-Stuyvesant community leaders for more relevant, accessible educational resources for Black and Puerto Rican youth.) Students identify strategies the authors and designers of the flier used to interest and engage local youth in that initiative. Finally, they practice using those strategies as they design a sample advocacy flier inviting other students to become actively involved in the social justice cause they have chosen.
This activity is designed to include a shorter, preparatory lesson, a main lesson, and a culminating activity or project. Depending on the instructor’s approach to adapting and implementing these lessons:
- The preparatory lesson should take approximately 20-30 minutes.
- The main lesson should take approximately 75 minutes.
- The culminating activity could be implemented as a classroom activity in approximately 30 minutes, or as a project that students work on in subsequent lessons and/or outside class time.
Upon completion of this lesson, students will be able to:
- Identify a problem, challenge or unrealized opportunity affecting students at their college or university.
- Explain why they believe it is a social justice issue of importance to the broader community.
- Provide a brief, accurate description of the Bedford-Stuyvesant community movement of the late 1960s for a public college for Black and Puerto Rican youth in that neighborhood.
- Describe at least three specific strategies that community organizers can use to interest and engage others in cause they feel is important.
- Identify and describe at least three specific strategies they would use to engage other students in a social justice cause they believe to be important.
- Apply some or all of those strategies in designing and writing a flier encouraging other students to become actively involved in the social justice cause they have chosen.
Note: This lesson is designed for students to design fliers and other advocacy materials for fictional or hypothetical actions they could take around a real social justice issue they believe is important. Students are not specifically expected or required to engage in real-life organization or activism efforts as a result of this lesson, but they and the instructor could discuss this possibility if they are interested.
Background and Purpose
Since its inception, the City University of New York has been shaped by the visions of students and youth who took action to advocate for higher education opportunities that addressed their priorities. In this regard, CUNY is one among countless examples of public education institutions shaped by the advocacy and organization efforts of its constituents.
In this lesson, students use three artifacts from the Community College 7 collection of the CUNY Digital History Archive that relate to a specific moment in the Bedford-Stuyvesant-based community movement of the late 1960s for a public college for the Black and Puerto Rican youth of central Brooklyn, a movement which led to the establishment of Medgar Evers College.
The purpose of this lesson is for students to explore and practice strategies that community activists and organizers use to engage others in social justice issues that they feel are important and demand action. As they do so, students learn how, during the racial justice and freedom struggles of the mid-1960s and early 1970s, New York City college students and youth took action to shape the City University of New York. They relate those struggles, and those organizing efforts, to the contemporary challenges and justice issues that they and their peers face.
CUNY Digital History Archive materials: The Community College 7 Collection:
- February 1968 Youth in Action Flyer: "Have Your Say in Planning Your Community College"
- Press Release – A New Experimental College
- February 1968 Memo and Press Release from Youth in Action
Other recommended instructional materials:
- Students should have access to a mobile device with an internet connection so they can access CDHA materials during the lesson.
- The instructor should have access to a projector to display the three artifacts
- The instructor may find it useful to create and use a slide deck to display prompts and discussion questions, especially those in bold below.
- Students may use blank paper and markers to sketch or create their fliers in the culminating step and follow-up projects.
Vocabulary Terms and Key Concepts
Students should examine and consider the following terms and concepts in relation to the core questions of how community organizers and activists engage others in social and educational justice causes:
Public school (and/or public institution)
🗒️ Preparatory Lesson
Suggested timeframe: 20–30 minutes
Class brainstorm: Invite students to brainstorm and share important problems, challenges or unrealized opportunities that affect students at their college or university. These could be issues that are specific to one group of students, or one that most or all students encounter. They should begin by brainstorming freely (without rejecting, analyzing or discussing each others’ examples). Write their examples on the blackboard or on a slide projected on a screen visible to the class. As a class, discuss and identify the problems, challenges or unrealized opportunities that are also social justice issues. As you do so, discuss your collective or individual understandings of the concept of “social justice.”
Small group work: Students, working in small groups of 3-4, choose one of the problems, challenges, or unrealized opportunities that are also social justice issues.
Explain to students: “As many (or maybe all) of us know from our lived experience, social and political movements often begin when someone – an individual, or a group of people – recognizes a problem they want to solve, and then get others involved in solving it.”
Optional brainstorm: “Can you think of a few examples of social, racial, or educational justice movements that we have studied in this class that are a good example of this pattern? Who were some of the people or groups that first led or catalyzed these movements?” Discussion point for reflection: In fact, historically it is difficult to identify or verify the “first” people who may have recognized a problem or catalyze a movement. Often, we know the names of prominent leaders who were involved with a movement once it reached a large scale, but they aren’t necessarily the first people to start the movement.
Explain: “In this class, first we are going to analyze a few historical documents related to an educational and racial justice movement in Brooklyn history. Then, we will use those documents to gather some lessons and strategies that you can apply to the problem or challenge facing students at this college that you identified.”
🗒️ Main Lesson
Suggested timeframe: 75 minutes
Invite students to look at the document “February 1968 Youth in Action Flyer: "Have Your Say in Planning Your Community College." Optional: Project the document on the screen.
- Who created this flier? What guesses or inferences can we make about the people who made this flier?
- Who was this flier intended for? (In other words, who was invited to this meeting?)
- We can easily see that this flier is an invitation to a meeting about a college. Does the meeting seem to be about a problem, a challenge, or an unrealized opportunity (or any combination of those three?) Write a sentence or two to describe the problem, challenge or unrealized opportunity, thinking from the perspective of the individuals or group who made this flier.
- What events do you think might have led to the organizers’ decision to hold this meeting? (Do you think this was the first meeting anyone in this community had held to discuss the idea of a community college? Or, was this meeting organized in response to other events?)
Suggestion: Project a slide or document with the short versions of each question in the front of the room. As students answer, make note of their preliminary guesses to these questions somewhere visible. Include notes of answers that are incomplete or that are incorrect, noting to students that making a guess is part of the process of making an inference. The purpose of the activity is not to know the right answer at this stage.
Class task: Invite students to read the documents: Press Release – A New Experimental College, and February 1968 Memo and Press Release from Youth in Action.
- Do you have any first reactions, reflections, questions or comments about these two documents?
- What more have you learned about the answers to the questions above?
As a class, revisit the questions and students’ original guesses, one by one. Add to or correct their guesses, referring to specific passages in the two documents.
Optional: Discuss the historical event and its importance. Is the problem/challenge that Youth in Action was concerned with similar or related to the problems facing students at their college?
Class task: Return to look at “February 1968 Youth in Action Flyer: "Have Your Say in Planning Your Community College." (Suggestion: Project it on the screen, and/or invite students to look at it on their own devices again).
Explain, “Now we have a better understanding of the problem that Youth in Action wanted to solve. Now let’s look at the flier again.”
- What strategies did the person who designed this flier use to get local youth to be interested in and actively involved in this issue? In other words, how were the words and images on this flier designed to motivate local youth to care about this issue and take action? Follow-up/prompt questions:
- What are the drawings meant to represent, and why did the flier designer include them?
- Why did the flier designer include exclamations and questions?
- What key information about the issue did the flier designer include, and how?
- Was there relevant information about this problem and/or related recent events (such as those we read about in the other two documents), that the flier designer did not include? Why do you think they left this out?
- What was the flier designer’s immediate goal with respect to this flier? What were their long-term goals? Discussion points: This may seem like an obvious question – their immediate goal was to get as many local youth as possible to come to the meeting and share their opinions. However, as you think about mobilizing other students around the issue you have chosen, think about how you want them to be involved. What action do you hope they will take next?”
Group work: Design a flier OR the equivalent to inform other students about the problem, challenge or unrealized opportunity you identified. To get started in designing your flier, discuss the following:
- What key information or ideas about the problem will you share to motivate them to take an interest?
- What do you want to encourage them to do about the problem? What immediate actions do you hope they will take? (You can also plan a fictional or real meeting if you wish, but feel free to make another choice). How do you hope they might be involved in the long term?
- Where will you post or disseminate your “flier”? (You are welcome to create a digital “flier” if you prefer). If you will be sharing it by social media, how will you share it so that it reaches the students whom you want to involve?
Optional: Distribute paper and markers for students to sketch or create their fliers if they wish.
🗒️ Culminating Activity
Suggested timeframe: 30 minutes
As the culminating activity in this lesson, students, working in their small groups, should present their fliers to the entire class, and share reflections and feedback on each others’ fliers. The culminating activity can be included in a follow-up lesson, or can be extended into a group project that students work on beyond class time. It may also incorporate a writing activity. Following are three possible adaptations for a culminating activity.
OPTION 1: Gallery Walk
With students, arrange classroom desks in a horseshoe or circle configuration. Invite each group to place their flier on one of the desks, leaving approximately equal distance between each flier. Ask students to take a few minutes to silently walk around the room and look at each flier.
Bring students back together as a group. (They may wish to remain standing). Invite them to discuss any or all of the following questions:
- Do you have any first positive reactions to any of these fliers?
- Earlier in class we discussed the design and writing strategies that activists use to engage others in causes they feel are important. Which of those strategies do you see applied here?
- What other innovative strategies have your classmates used, in designing and writing their fliers, to encourage and/or convince others to get involved and take action in their cause?
- What questions do you have for your classmates who designed these fliers?
- Imagine that these were first drafts of a fliers. What suggestions for small changes or additions do you have for how to make the final draft of one or more of these fliers more motivating or convincing?
OPTION 2: Social Media Simulation
Find or design an online platform on which students can post images of their fliers, and then post comments on each other’s fliers. The free platform Padlet, in “wall” format, could work well. Invite students to take a few minutes to look at each other’s fliers. Then, as a class, discuss some of the questions above (for the Gallery Walk activity).
Conclude by inviting students to imagine that the platform was an actual platform created by student activists and organizations at their school, and that they themselves were curious about getting involved in important social justice issues affecting their college. Each student should post a comment on at least three other groups’ fliers. Their comments should be substantive and show their understanding of, interest in, or critical response to the flier and the issue it presents. Comments could include:
- A clarifying, curious or constructively critical question to the group who posted the flier.
- A comment of support or interest in the issue
- A hashtag highlighting the importance of the issue and/or connecting it to other relevant social justice causes
OPTION 3: Group Art Activity
Students, continuing to work in their groups, could elaborate on the first draft of the flier they created at the end of the main activity through more arts-based work and/or in writing. A few possibilities include the following:
Designed flier: Students can use the flier they designed in class as a first draft and create a more polished version using other design and arts resources available to them, as well as their group members’ art and design skills.
Advocacy briefing note: Students, working in their small groups, write an advocacy briefing note explaining their social justice cause and its importance to other students and members of their college or university community.
Community organizing plan: Students, working in their small groups, develop a community organizing plan outlining and explaining steps they would take to get others involved in their social justice cause. For example, this plan might include organizing community information meetings and workshops, writing letters to relevant leaders or potential change-makers, developing proposals or lists of demands, and/or other activities.
Historical comparison and analysis: Students, working individually, research and write a short paper comparing their social justice cause to another moment in history when college students and/or other youth organized around an issue related to social and educational justice. That example could be the community movement for Community College 7/Medgar Evers College, or another student movement documented in the CDHA collection, such as the Student Liberation Action Movement (SLAM) or the movement for the establishment of a Puerto Rican Studies program at Brooklyn College.
|Have you used this lesson plan in a class? We want to hear from you! Email firstname.lastname@example.org.