A lesson plan to go with: “Me and Mumia,” a personal reflection about Mumia Abu-Jamal, a man on death row whose case has inspired many to speak out against police brutality, by Matt Jones, published Sept.-Oct. 2000

Grades: 6-12
Subjects: Language Arts, Social Studies
Suggested Time Allowance: 45 minutes-1 hour

Overview of Lesson Plan: In this lesson, students will use one teen’s story of personal growth through learning about racism and the criminal justice system to explore how individuals’ world views are shaped and changed through experiences and education.

Students will:
—Discuss the meaning of “world view.”
—Discuss and write about how their personal experiences and beliefs shape and reflect their world views, and how those experiences have shaped, influenced, changed, and/or reinforced their ideas and beliefs.

–copies of “Mumia article headline” (one per student)
–classroom chalkboard

1. Warm-up: In journals or on separate pieces of paper, students respond to the following prompt written on the board: If you could sum up the way you view life, the world, or how you live your life in a short motto, what would it be, and why?

2. As a class, read “Me and Mumia.” Then discuss the article, addressing these questions:
    a. Why do you think Matt’s reaction to the Mumia rally flier was to turn it into a joke?

    b. How would you characterize Matt’s beliefs about race and racism at the beginning of the article? By the end of the article, how have his beliefs changed? Why do you think he has changed his thinking?

    c. When Matt starts to learn things that change his mind about the Mumia case, he finds that he no longer shares some of the same beliefs and ideas as his friends or relatives. How can this experience challenge an individual in the process of changing their ideas about something? Have any of you experienced this? How can one handle this?

    d. Through learning more about the Mumia Abu-Jamal case, Matt has come to believe certain things about the state of racism, race relations, and black people in America. Do you agree with him? Why or why or not? How have your own experiences and what you have learned from others influenced your opinions and ideas about these issues?

3. In small groups of about 4 students, map out Matt’s transformation on newsprint. Diagram in flow-chart style Matt’s movement from one point of view to another, paying special attention to why changes of thought occurred—what specific things acted as the mechanisms by which Matt’s change occurred? Then, returning the the large group, present the charts. Are there differences? Did any groups include or exclude things that were different from the other groups’ charts? What was the reasoning behind such inclusions or exclusions—why were these things important, or not, in the eyes of the group?

4. Wrap-up/homework: Write a personal essay about an event or experience which challenged your beliefs or world view about something. Did the experience lead you to review your beliefs and change your mind? Did it lead you to reaffirm your beliefs? In the essay, show the course of your personal development: What were your beliefs before the experience? How did you come to those beliefs? How did the experience challenge those beliefs? How did you react to that challenge? What are your current beliefs or thoughts on this topic or issue? How have they been shaped by your experience? How have others—friends, family—reacted to your change in ideas or beliefs? Do they agree with you?

Further Questions for Discussion:
–Matt describes his excitement at discovering a growing movement against racism, made up of not only “militant blacks” whom he now respects, but people of “all different shapes, sizes, ages and colors.” We know why Matt, a young black man, now sees himself as part of this movement. Speculate on why others, of different backgrounds, would join this fight.

–Do you think racism still exists? Why or why not? If it does, what are ways we can combat it? Are things being done now to make things better? Or are things getting worse? What would it take to make things better, and if they aren’t happening now, why not?

Students will be evaluated on their participation in discussion and their individual written work.

Extension Activities:
–Research issues of race and racism in the criminal justice system. Use the film “The Hurricane,” or the books upon which it was based,” as the means to begin the discussion. Students can complete research papers or multimedia presentations based on a specific topic of their choosing. Personal experiences with the justice system or community issues with the police and the courts can serve as foundation for further research.