An Afternoon of My Own Pursuits
Well, the one afternoon that I was given to explore on my own was a bit of a flop. We were told that we could go and find things that would be beneficial for us in our classroom. So, I did a little bit of research and found the Schomberg Center of the New York Public Library in Harlem. I had been looking for some exhibit for the Harlem Renaissance, but after striking out there, I found this location that had two exhibitions: “Phenomenal Woman: Maya Angelou” (who died this year) and “On the Road to Integration: Celebrating the 60th Anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education.” I thought that both of these could be pretty useful in the classroom. I’ll get to these in a minute.
First, I decided to spend a little time in the graffiti exhibit at the City Museum. This was actually pretty cool, and it brings up some interesting sides of the debate of graffiti. I think that it is hard to deny the artistic ability of the people who do graffiti, but my family has actually been a victim (although only slightly) of graffiti. The question arises, though: should graffiti be illegal?
We spend a lot of time in my class dealing with multiple perspectives on issues, and I think this exhibit did a great job handling some of these sides. They even had quotes from different people about their views on graffiti. This was a great exhibit.
After a short lunch, we grabbed a bus to get to the Schomburg Center. Okay, rookie mistake: never take the bus in New York City. I know for a fact the bus we were on was lapped by another bus with the same route. It took FOREVER to get to the Schomburg Center. When we finally arrived, I saw the “exhibitions.” They were two six-foot glass cases with selected artifacts in them. That was it.
The Maya Angelou exhibition included some edited transcripts of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, a couple of letters, and an edited sheet of the inaugural poem she wrote for Bill Clinton. I could possibly use this in class to show not only that authors do, in fact, edit their own work, but also to consider what the impact of the changes were to the finished product. This could be very useful in my Creative Writing class.
The Brown v. Board of Education exhibition was even more limited, but the one thing that really stuck with me was one little picture. It was a prom picture from March of this year. It was an interracial prom picture from the first racially integrated school-sponsored prom in Wilcox County High School in Georgia. It blew my mind that this is still a problem in 2014. Now, I’m no fool. Obviously race relations have a long way to go in this country, but how can this be? (And how did I miss this on the news?) I think this could spur some lively discussion in my classrooms.
It’s barely worth mentioning, but I did go and see the Motown exhibit that they had at the Schomburg Center as well. It was much better, and I found it engaging. Unfortunately, I have not really come up with a solid use for that exhibit (especially since I couldn’t take any pictures of it either).
Oh, well. I think I made the best with the locations I chose for that afternoon. I can see some great uses of this information in my class.