The Voting Right Act of 1965

In this class, every student identified as Latino, an immigrant, or in a family of immigrants. So, of course, throughout the presidential campaign they had become increasingly distressed at what they heard as anti immigrant and bigoted rhetoric.

This is my third presidential election teaching in secondary classrooms. Traditionally, the class has their election projects where they analyze the candidates, policies, the process. However, for this particular election students needed some way to respond to what they had been hearing for over year. I wanted to create a lesson that offered them a voice, as well an understanding of the election process and what it means to be able to participate.

This project began with two questions, “Who will be able to vote at age 18?” in two classes only half of the students raised their hand, in the other three classes there were no hands raised. The second question was, “Can your parents vote in this election?” only two students from all five classes combined raised their hand.  When asked how this impacted the election and their lives none of the students could respond.  They had never been in a family that had the right to vote and simply didn’t know what this means. So we had to do some research (can you hear the collective groan?)

The class was asked to explore what it means when a group of people is excluded from the process. What did it mean for such a large group of Latino adults are not be able to participate in an election, especially in this political climate?

They had two tasks, first to research the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and look at what it meant then when a group of people were excluded from the process. They watched the Fannie Lou Hammer’s testimony at the 1964 Democratic Convention and looked at data related to race and voter registration read the Voting Rights Act itself .

In response, students decided to amended the Act to include certain non-citizens. They decided that the non-citizen should be here for a specific length of time and paying taxes. The students decided if you are paying into the system you should be a part of the process. Students created a set of rules for inclusion, such as years in the country and tax returns. They were adamant that there be perimeters!

Another aspect to this was that the students who raised their hands realized their responsibility to those who did not.

The second part  was to allow them to speak out directly to quotes that offended them. They had to find specific quotes and state how they were invalid. This was not intended only be cathartic but also to help them to craft a response that is required thought and fact instead of a retort.

This was my first recording, so it gets better in later modules, promise!

This was aired on a slot in Open Source RVA on WRIR 97.3 an all volunteer radio station, Open Source RVA is Don Harrison with producer Krysty Albus and Chispa Media is Katie Whelan with producers  Krysti  Albus

Roberto, Yenifer, Antonia, Agustin, Jacqueline, Sharina, Edwin, Alex