A lesson plan based on “Kareem’s perspective” from the March-April 2007 issue of L.A. Youth, in which Sam Rubinroit describes Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s tribute to black achievers of the past.

By Libby Hartigan, Managing Editor

Grades: 6-12
Subjects: Language arts, life skills, history
Suggested time allowance: 45 min.-1 hr.

Students will:
1. Analyze our identities.
2. Consider the people who have shaped and continue to shape the world around us.
3. Develop a way to acknowledge and honor their contributions.

Resources and materials:
— pens, paper
— copies of L.A. Youth article “Kareem’s perspective” (one per student)
— blackboard or white board

1. On the board write: Where I come from. What do students think this means? If they were to describe where they come from, what would they talk about? Answers might include their neighborhood, country of origin, nationality, or something about their personality (Example: “Where I’m coming from is that I’m always honest, even if people don’t like it.”)

2. Discussion: Who helped me get to where I am?
As Americans, we are often encouraged to think of ourselves as individuals. We each must overcome obstacles to achieve our goals. Our background, racial heritage, interests and dreams are all part of our identity. But we’re also shaped by our circumstances. The communities where we live, the people who raise us and the schools we attend are a big part of our lives. Sometimes we don’t think about the people who came before us, who helped create the world we live in now.

Who do your students see as important to their lives? Would they choose a relative, such as a parent or grandparent? Would they choose a historical figure, such as George Washington or a celebrity like Tupac Shakur?

2. Reading and discussion. Ask students to read the interview with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar by Sam Rubinroit on pages 20-21 of the March-April 2007 issue of L.A. Youth.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the basketball legend, is an individual who achieved on the highest level. He has been inducted into the basketball Hall of Fame for his record-breaking career. Certainly he worked hard for his success. But in his recent book, On the Shoulders of Giants, he also pays tribute to the many black writers, musicians and athletes who broke color barriers, changed society and paved the way to make his success possible. The implication of Kareem’s book is that, if other people hadn’t already created a more racially equal society, Kareem probably would not have had the opportunity to excel, no matter how skilled he was or how hard he worked.

Discussion questions:

How does Kareem define himself? As a Renaissance man (meaning that he can achieve excellence in many fields, not just one)

What are some of Kareem’s achievements?

Why did Kareem choose to write a book about the black artists, writers and musicians of the Harlem Renaissance?

3. Assignment: Developing a tribute. Ask students to select a person or group of people who they feel has had an impact on their country, community, school or family. Write an essay on who the person or people are and how they made a difference.

Evaluation and assessment:
Students will be evaluated based upon their class participation and work.

Extension activity:
Ask students to develop a community tribute to the person or people they feel should be honored. The tribute can take many forms, such as a billboard, monument, Day of Commemoration, parade or documentary film. It could also be an online tribute using MySpace.com, Flip.com or another online location. The proposal should describe the tribute in detail, including when and where it would take place.