Florence resident and Amherst teacher building anti-racism curriculum

  • Amherst Regional Middle School teacher Michael Lawrence-Riddell challenges his seventh grade students in March 2017. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

Staff Writer
Published: 7/7/2020 6:30:00 PM

NORTHAMPTON — As the Black Lives Matter movement continues and discussions about systemic racism take place across the country, a Florence resident who teaches in the Amherst public schools is creating a curriculum that explores race and racism in the United States.

Self-Evident Media, an organization launched by Executive Director Michael Lawrence-Riddell, is putting together narrative-based multimedia resources about the creation and weaponization of race throughout American history.

“By knowing and understanding the history of race in America, students will more fully understand who we are as a country and how to imagine and build a just future,” reads a statement in a fact sheet the organization is distributing.

Lawrence-Riddell, a teacher in Amherst for 14 years, began the project last August as a collaboration with artists and educators, including Bayeté Ross Smith, a member of the organization’s advisory board and an artist who also grew up in Amherst.

Though there has been extensive discussion about race in recent weeks following the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis by police, Self-Evident Media’s creation came in response to what Lawrence-Riddell said was an urgent need for honestly and rigorously engaging in work to understand the histories and legacies of race and institutional racism.

The project will create a curriculum by working with local schools and will align with the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts and Literacy in History/Social Studies and the National Council for Social Studies C3 Frameworks.

As part of Self-Evident Media’s launch Sunday at 7:30 p.m., there will be an interactive screening of “One Minute’s Freedom.” The film focuses on Elizabeth “Mumbet” Freeman and the abolition of slavery in Massachusetts that took place in the late 18th century when, after listening to a reading of the Declaration of Independence, Freeman sought a lawyer to argue for her freedom.

A Zoom virtual conference will allow participants to discuss what they are viewing.

For more information about the event, visit eventbrite.com/e/self-evident-media-one-minutes-freedom-screening-tickets-111555930792

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.
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