Exploring Solidarity, Post-Election

Opening Ceremony

Begin the lesson with this mindfulness activity.

  • Get comfortable in your seat.
  • Sit up straight.
  • Put both feet down, soles connecting to the floor.
  • Rest your hands in your lap.
  • If comfortable for you, close your eyes, or, if you prefer, find a spot on the floor in front of you to gently rest your gaze. 
  • Sit strong like a mountain, tall like a large tree.
  • Image there’s an invisible thread attached to the top of your head, gently pulling you up, stretching you out.
  • Allow your shoulders to drop. 
  • Take a few moments to notice how your body feels.  
  • Check in with yourself as you bring your attention to your breath.  
  • Notice how the breath flows … in … and out …
  • There’s no need to change how you breathe.
  • Your body is the expert.  It knows just how.  It needs no guidance.
  • Simply notice each breath coming into the body with the in-breath, and leaving the body with the out-breath.
  • If you notice your mind is caught up in thoughts or concerns, body sensations or emotions, know that this is normal.
  • If your attention wanders, as it will, just notice it then return the focus again to your breathing. 
  • Notice the stray thoughts and feelings, but don’t dwell on them. 
  • Simply allow them to pass as you keep coming back to your breath.
  • Your breath, which continues to flow …. deeply … calmly … continuously
  • Feel your chest and stomach gently rise and fall with each breath.
  • Take a few more moments to notice how your body feels.
  • Keeping your eyes closed, notice the sounds around you.
  • Feel the floor beneath you.
  • Start to wiggle your toes.
  • Shrug your shoulders.
  • Bring your attention back to your surroundings.
  • Open your eyes and get adjusted to the light.
  • Straighten out your legs, and stretch your arms and legs gently as you come back into the room. 
  • Check in with yourself. 
  • What was that like?


Values

Share with students that the 2016 election has included a great deal of incivility and intolerance, which has deepened divisions in our country.  Remembering and recommitting ourselves to the values that we share will enable us to have a dialogue about the election and what comes next.
 
If your class has already shared values through a circle or by making a community agreement, review those values and agreements. (If you have not facilitated such a process in your classroom, consider doing it now.) 
 
Decide on which values are most important for us to recommit to in this post-election world.  What values do we need to have an inclusive dialogue in our class? What values will allow us to listen to each other and be respectful of one another? 
 


Solidarity Explored

Write the word solidarity on the wall/board and circle it. If you are using a circle format, you might also write the word on a sheet of paper and put it at the center of your circle.
 
Send a talking piece around or simply ask students to share what comes up for them when they hear the word solidarity.  Ask students to share any word associations that come up for them. Chart their responses in a word web by writing student associations on the outside, then drawing lines from the words to the center word SOLIDARITY, thus creating a web.
 
When students are done sharing, ask them to look at the web and reflect on the associations. 
 

  • What do they notice about the words in the web?
  • Are there similarities, differences, surprises? 
  • Anything else they’d like to say about the words represented?

 
Next invite students to come up with a definition for the word solidarity.  Work with them towards a definition that includes some of the following from dictionary.com:
 

 

Quotes on Solidarity

To deepen students’ understanding of solidarity further, put the three quotes below in the center piece or post them on the board for students to read.  Ask students what comes up for them as they read these quotes.  Can they connect it to what they’ve shared so far today?
 
“Don’t walk behind me, I may not lead. Don’t walk in front of me, I may not follow. Walk beside me and be my friend.”
  -  Albert Camus, Algerian philosopher, author, and journalist based in France

“If you have come to help me, you are wasting your time.  But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.” -  Lilla Watson, Murri (Indigenous Australian) visual artist, activist and academic 
 
“Solidarity is horizontal.  It respects the other and learns from the other.  I have a lot to learn from other people.”  - Eduardo Galeano, Uruguayan journalist, writer and novelist
 
Go round: Send a talking piece around asking students: How do you connect what we shared so far with recent events around the election?

Go round:  If student sharing is substantive and time allows, send the talking piece around again, asking students to share connections, reflections and additional comments on what has been shared so far. 


Acts of Solidarity Around the Country

Invite students in small groups to read and discuss ways that people are expressing their solidarity around the country by using the handouts at the end of this lesson. 
 
You can structure this conversation in one of two ways.
 

Option 1:  Stand Under Activity
 
Post the social media messages below around the room for students to take in.  Invite students to stand by the social media message that most speaks to them.  Then provide them with the text that accompanies the image.  Invite students in self- selected groups to read the text and then discuss: 

  • What are your thoughts and feelings about what you just read?
  • How do you think the (different) people that you read about are feeling?
  • How did they respond?  What were their objectives?
  • What do you think the actions described in this text achieved?  For whom? How?
  • Most of the actions posted around the room took place in the week after the election. What do you know about these actions, or ones like them happening today? What does that tell you?
  • Where could these actions go from here?  Where should these actions go from here, according to the people in the text? According to you?

 
Option 2:  Small Group Activity
 
Divide your class into five groups and provide each group with a different social media message and text.
 
Invite students in their small groups to discuss the text using the questions above.
 
 

Regroup

After students have finished their small group discussion (in either format), reconvene the students and ask them to share high points from their discussion, using the earlier questions as needed.
 
Encourage the students who discussed the safety pin text, to talk about the different reactions in the text to people wearing safety pins.  Invite them to explain these different reactions. 
 
Next, engage students in a discussion about what kinds of acts of solidarity would be most helpful in your community going forward.
 
 

Closing Ceremony: Connections

Tell students that for our closing today, we’ll do an activity called “connections.” 
 
Explain that “connections” is a time to offer reflections or feelings about the work we’ve done together today.  It’s an opportunity to share briefly what’s on your mind or in your heart—if you feel so moved. “Connections” comes from the Quaker tradition; it’s a practice in which people speak if they feel moved to speak.  It’s not a discussion or go-round.  If there is silence, that’s fine.  Enjoy the silence as a time for reflection.
 
Set your timer for three or four minutes and let the sharing unfold. When the timer goes off, it’s over. There’s no follow-up discussion.



My Fellow New Yorkers Are in Community with Each Other

 
 
(Adapted from the New York Times, 11/11/16)      
 
Mr. Chavez said he arrived at the tunnel on Wednesday with a stack of sticky notes, some pens and an open mind.  “Express yourself,” he posted on the wall. Thousands of people responded to his offer by day’s end.
 
Since then, the wall has become one of New York’s most significant public forums of late — a tribute to the city’s diverse voices, a monument to its drive to speak out and a testament to the strength that New Yorkers, in moments of intense emotion, often draw from one another.  “I can go somewhere where my fellow New Yorkers are in community with each other and can say what they feel,” Abi Treut of Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, said of the wall. “It’s catharsis.”  One of the messages she posted was, “All women must be wonder women now.”
 
Other comments capture a range of reactions to the election’s outcome. Hope: “Keep your head high.” Respect: “It’s an honor to be in this struggle with you.” Humor: “Love is the new black.” Calls to action: “Mobilize.” One note shows a simply drawn heart, broken and bleeding. There are many references that celebrate New York’s diversity.  “I wanted to give people the opportunity to express something without talking about it,” said Mr. Chavez...
 
On Thursday night, a large group of people gathered near the wall. Many who stopped said that writing a note had helped ease the sense of dread they had been carrying since Mr. Trump’s victory.  Standing in the tunnel, a college student from Mexico who identified herself only as Linet wiped away a tear. She said she was not a legal resident of the United States. Seeing that her concern about the future was not unique — many of the notes expressed similar worries — gave her some comfort, she said.  “I am so scared,” she said, her voice trembling. “But I’m not going to be negative about it. I’m not ready to go back home.” 
 
 


I Wear My Safety Pin to Show that I Stand with ALL Students

 
    
      
(adapted from the Washington Post, 11/15/16)
 
The election of Donald Trump came as more than a shock for many opponents of the Republican businessman. After the results were tallied, fear spread that Trump’s more extreme supporters, emboldened by his victory …, would intimidate or attack people of color, women, immigrants, Muslims, or members of the LGBT community.
 
The concern was not unfounded. Reports of hate crimes and election-related harassment have surged since last Tuesday. Critics allege that the president-elect has encouraged hateful behavior through his history of vulgar, racially charged and inflammatory remarks — a claim the Trump campaign has denied. Trump has urged people to “stop it.”
 
In an attempt to show their solidarity, Trump opponents across the country last week started fastening safety pins to their clothes and posting selfies on social media. The gesture was supposed to signify that the wearer was a “safe” ally, ready to stand up for anyone who might be the target of abuse, whether verbal or physical.
 
But that’s not how some people have seen it. Just days after the impromptu campaign went viral, the decision to don safety pins has come under fire from critics — including several black and Hispanic writers — who lambasted it as a poor excuse for action and a self-indulgent way for white people to distance themselves from Trump voters.
 
 “Let’s call these safety pins what they are: an empty gesture,” Demetria Lucas D’Oyley wrote …. “These pins, not the wearing of them nor the pictures posted of folks wearing them, are not about safe spaces. They’re about not wanting to be perceived as a racist. Like, ‘I might be white, but I’m not like them, over there. I’m enlightened.’” ….
 
“They are nothing but badges made for white people to assuage white guilt and declare themselves allies completely autonomously,” he wrote. “It signifies almost nothing at all. It is a self-administered pat on the back for being a decent human being. Privilege at its finest.”
 
“Of course, everyone needs to do more than wear a pin or post a note of hope,” Heather Dockray wrote …. “But that doesn’t mean we should shame and attack people who are trying to do something within the first week of a crisis, especially when millions of Americans didn’t even bother to show up at the polls this election, and millions more want a very different kind of ‘something’ for their country.”
 
Demetria Lucas D’Oyley … left readers with an admonition: “Your pin will actually count for something if the next time you see something bad happening to a person of color, you speak up and intervene instead of staring wide-eyed and silent and then writing about it in a status update that’s all about how you were traumatized by witnessing a terrible thing that happened to someone else,” she said. “Actually create a safe space instead of cheaply designating yourself one because you fastened a piece of malleable metal to your sweater.”
 


University of Michigan Students Joined Forces to Protect Their Own

 
   
(Adapted from Huffington Post)
 
 
Reports of harassment and intimidation of Muslims and other minorities have spiked in the days since the election of Donald Trump. During his campaign, the president-elect sparked controversy by suggesting that Muslims should be required to register in a database and suggesting a total ban on Muslims entering the United States. The ban later morphed into an “extreme vetting” of immigrants.
 
Although Trump has largely stayed silent on his stance towards American Muslims since election night, some activists fear that Trump’s victory could embolden those who are intent on spreading anti-Muslim hate.
 
In outright defiance of the rising levels anti-Muslim hate in America, University of Michigan students joined forces on Monday to protect their own.  After hearing that a Muslim student had reportedly been threatened for her faith, hundreds of students and faculty showed up to stand guard around classmates who had gathered in a main square to perform one of Islam’s five daily prayers. 
 
The public Ishaa prayer, or nighttime prayer, was organized by the university’s Muslim Student Association. Club president Farhan Ali, a junior, told The Huffington Post that members of his group wanted to show the campus that they were proud to be Muslim.
 
“Some individuals were afraid that we might be vulnerable during our prayer, so we had the idea of calling allies to support us and create a circle around us while we prayed and they ensured our safety,” Ali told The Huffington Post in an email. 
 
But Ali wasn’t expecting such a strong and substantial turnout, from the Muslim community and from allies.  
 
“Hundreds and hundreds of people came out for both prayer and showing their support,” Ali wrote. “The amount of support was overwhelming and absolutely wonderful, and it brought some ease to the Muslim students [and] showed that we have other individuals who are willing to stand with us.”
 
Mohammed Ishtiaq, the university’s Muslim chaplain, told The Huffington Post that both the Jewish and Christian communities on campus came out to show their support. He said some members of the crowd held signs that read, “You Belong Here.”  
 
“Although it was a cold night, the amount of support we got was really heart warming,” Ishtiaq said in an email. “Events of solidarity like this give us hope.”
 
Ali said that at the University of Michigan, there was some “sadness, fear, and uneasiness” in the Muslim community immediately after the election. But now, the group is trying to mobilize and organize. 
 
“We must roll up our sleeves and get to work because the fight does not end with the election results,” Ali told HuffPost. “We have allies who are with us and we have a community that is resilient and will not succumb to fear in light of these attacks.”
 
 


Campus Solidarity

Many college and high school students organized rallies and protests across the country to show solidarity with those who have been targeted.
 

 

(Adapted from the Amherst Wire)
 
 
AMHERST — The Monday after the presidential election brought a lot of unusual absence notes to the Amherst-Pelham Regional High School (ARHS) principal’s office. Students from ARHS staged a walkout Monday … to stand in solidarity with those who felt the repercussions a Donald Trump presidency could bring. Abigail Morris, event coordinator and Amherst-Pelham High School Junior, made clear through the Facebook page for the event that the walk-out was neither an anti-Trump protest nor a protest against their school.
 
“It’s to show the community, the world and anyone that will listen that just because we’re kids and we can’t vote, that doesn’t mean our voices aren’t going to be heard,” said Morris.  “We’re the future,” she added. “The next presidential election, four years down the line, we are still going to be here and we are still going to be fighting.”
 
Principal Mark Jackson sent out a letter to parents of students at ARHS Sunday recognizing the walkout. He stated his two interests: providing students with the opportunity to express themselves politically and maintaining order within the school. If a student wished to participate in the walkout, their parent had to sign the letter for the student to hand into the main office.
 
Right after their lunch break at 12:20 p.m., students signed designated poster boards in the lobby and marched out of the building towards the Amherst Town Common. Other local students and community members joined them along the way.  Students formed a circle in the center of Amherst Town Common and shared the pains and concerns they feel with Donald Trump’s future presidency. ….
 
Marchers chanted “the people united, will never be defeated,” as they proceeded downtown. They were joined by their parents, members of the community and college students.  Isaac Kupferschmid, ARHS junior, said he walked out to support his family.  “I’m protesting because my sister is gay and I want to make sure she has the right to be who she is without being discriminated against,” said Kupferschmid.
 
Abelíz Lebron Cdón, a junior at ARHS, expressed concerns for her and her family being of color.  “This election has affected my family. It has completely split my family apart. People from my family want to leave the country,” said Cdón.  Despite this, Cdón shared a message for her peers. They should stick to their beliefs, she said, even if they are told otherwise.
 
Other students spoke out about how important it is to be engaged and involved with national affairs.  
 


Solidarity event aims to unite following Trump's election win

(Adapted from the Lincoln Journal-Star)
 
Three Culler Middle School teachers stood on the Nebraska Capitol’s north steps Saturday holding signs. One was in Spanish, and a second sign adjacent to it translated: “The wall that separates us only exists in the minds of the ignorant.”
The signs referred to President-elect Donald Trump’s proposal to build a wall on the border between the United States and Mexico.
 
“The wall has been talked about as a literal thing, but it’s also figurative,” said teacher Jessica Nickum as she held the sign in Spanish. “My idea of the wall is that it only exists for people who live their lives in fear and are scared about the things they don’t understand.”
 
People driving by laid on their horns as they passed, some waved. One man in a truck rolled his window down to yell “Get a job hippies! Go Donald Trump!” at the peaceful crowd of about 100 people. “He can have his feelings and thoughts, but this whole election has divided our country,” teacher Sherri Robinson said about the heckler. “We have to be about positive change.”
 
The event, called "We Stand United" on Facebook, was just that: a space for people upset about the surprising outcome of the presidential election to gather, grieve and meditate on positive, peaceful change. 
 
The speakers disagreed with Donald Trump's past statements about women, immigrants, refugees, LGBTQ community, Muslims and other minorities as reason to mourn the news of his election. The gathering was planned through a Facebook event page, which was shared with around 2,600 people.
 
“I wanted to facilitate a space for like-minded people to come together and connect with each other in a positive way to facilitate conversation and meet each other and sit in peace,” said event organizer Kjerstin Egger. ….
 
Losh says the election has been difficult because “Donald Trump ran a campaign essentially making us unsafe.” She says her community is going through a process of collective mourning. She is a transgender woman married to a woman and says she takes Trump’s past statements about the LGBTQ community personally.  “It’s disheartening to feel a sense of progress only to have a backlash and feel so many people standing up and feeling comfortable in their hate in this country,” she said.
 
But while some people were closing their eyes for the meditations, others were feeling frustrated that there wasn’t more of a call to action at the event.  “I think the luxury of coming together to grieve is an expression of privilege,” said attendee Andrew Swenson, who noted that the gathering was largely white, despite the vocal support for minorities. “What I’m afraid of, as white people, we grieve and then we feel better about ourselves. If we have the opportunity to talk to a bunch of people at events (like these) let’s not waste it by not talking about steps for action.”
 
But others feel like the grieving process and self-care is a necessary step is important for people to get to the stage where they can be actors in movements for change. 
 
“I think after we grieve and take this space we need to organize and be an ally and advocate for people who feel in danger,” said Kelly Seacrest while holding a sign that said “All are welcome.” “When you come from a place of privilege, you have a duty and responsibility to fight for those who are being actively oppressed.”
 
“I feel like it’s very important to start out from a place of love and compassion — action is very important — but first we need to realize that people are grieving and hurt and we need to come together,” said Losh. ….