High school students from June Jordan School for Equity in San Francisco process the election results during a “chalk talk” session at the Voice of Witness office.
On December 8, 2016, the Voice of Witness education team held Say It Forward, a public “pop-up oral history” event at the VOW office for educators and students in the Bay Area to share their reactions and hopes surrounding the election.
Despite the rain, a group of students from June Jordan School for Equity visited with their teacher, René Peña-Govea. City College of San Francisco professor Steven Mayers and his former student, Oscar, also stopped by, as well as Envision Academy teacher John Warren.
The students from June Jordan were juniors, most just two years shy of voting age. They all shared similar concerns about how this election would affect their plans for higher education.
The student group participated in a “chalk talk” writing exercise to answer three main questions: What inspired you to come today? How did you first react when you learned of the election results? What does solidarity mean to you?
The students wrote their answers on big sheets of paper that had been taped up to the wall, then came together to share their responses. They had mixed reactions to the question about how they reacted when they first heard the election results. Some were shocked and worried for their own futures, while others were worried for the safety of their friends. Some students said they weren’t surprised at all due to acts of bigotry they had already experienced in their lives.
With the adults, the education team held an open group interview session, where each person wrote down several questions they wanted to ask the group or their own students, and each person had an opportunity to respond. Several interesting questions came out of this session: When was the first time you really laughed after the election? What role do you think teachers played in this election? What is something you need from your community now more than ever?
As the event came to a close, VOW Education Program Director Cliff Mayotte asked one last participant, “If you had an opportunity to give Donald Trump advice, what would you tell him?”
He responded, “It would be to give people an opportunity, no matter who they are.”
A piece of advice we can all take with us.