Institutional Racism and

Nonrepresentative Landmarks

 

Marybeth Christiansen

Mott Hall High School

 

Introduction:

Institutional racism has caused an out pouring of public dissent over the types of memorials, statues and historic places we celebrate in our public spaces. You are part of a team of local historians tasked with the redesignation of landmarks in your community. In a selected section of our Harlem neighborhood were many of us live and all of us go to school we will complete a survey of the historic monuments found in our neighborhood and make suggestions of new historic markers or landmarks. This will be presented as a letter to the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission suggesting new landmarks that are representative of the communities living there now which may have been overlooked by history.

The Task:

Students will survey the neighborhood and examine the historic landmarks, public works or plaques that currently define the public historic spaces of the neighborhood. Students will examine if these are representative of the communities which live in these spaces currently. Students will create a power point presentation of suggestions for new landmarks that represent the communities in the neighborhood who are under-represented.

The Process/The Resources

Student Grouping:

 

Heterogeneous language groupings that are inclusive with language pairs will allow the teacher to check in with each group and offer supports that can apply to the entire group. Work is differentiated by skill level (English proficiency), so students in the same group will support one another as they work through the same worksheet. In the groups, Students have clear roles so that each person has a specific task to complete. The rubrics they will have in front of them are familiar to them by this time, and are specific to expectations for group work and classwork. Students are groups in heterogeneous level groupings but always paired with a language partner for clarification and support in partner and group work

 

Day 1

       Define the Problem: Representation of Communities in Historic Preservation

       You will use a word web to brainstorm the community identities present in the neighborhood and the structures or personalities that represent them.

       You will create a definition of Historic Preservation/Landmark Representation with your group using the Define the Problem: Worksheet#1

 

Day 2

       You will Gather the Evidence: You will research the types of landmarks that exist and examine the ways historic landmarks define community identity. Use the worksheet to gather evidence on this topic.

       Example sources

 

https://www1.nyc.gov/site/lpc/index.page

https://www.nps.gov/subjects/nationalhistoriclandmarks/faqs.htm

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-02-05/racial-justice-advocates-win-nyc-landmark-battle

https://parks.ny.gov/documents/shpo/FinalNYCLGBTContextStatement.pdf

       Identify the Causes: You will research the lack of community representation in historic preservation and identify the cause for these landmarking decisions.

 

Day 3

       Evaluate an Existing Policy. Use the evaluation worksheet to evaluate the existing landmarks, public works, and historic places in the neighborhood.Do they represent all communities?

       Develop Solutions: Brainstorm what types of communities, places, people or events are representative of excluded communities. Make an asset map of your community, what should be preserved for future generations, where have communities left their mark?

 

Day 4

       Select the Best Solution (Feasibility vs. Effectiveness) Use the Feasibility Worksheet to evaluate your top suggestions.

       Use the notes from this evaluation to create a rubric for what your suggested landmarks, public works and historic places should represent and include.

 

Day 5 & Day 6

       Create a Presentation of your selected monuments, landmarks, people or events. Create a photo essay, drawn representation or mood board representing your suggestions

       Select and assign tasks for each member of the group. You will need artists, organizers, writers, presenters and editor/feedback specialists.

 

Day 7

       Create a letter/email to introduce your policy concepts and suggested landmarks to the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission.Decide what visual material to include in your letter/email.

       Organize an event to share your ideas with community members and stakeholders in the neighborhood.

 

 

Evaluation

Presentation

All the time 10

Most of the time 8

Some of the time 6

Never/None 4

Introduction

& Conclusion

Presenter is engaged (doesnít read their notes)

I can hear presenter

Subject in focus

 

Letter to Government Agency

4

3

2

1

Goal or Thesis Statement and Action Sought

The goal or thesis provides a clear, strong statement of the authorís position along with action needed (i.e. bill created, passed, or vote against, etc)

The goal or thesis provides a clear statement of the authorís position on the topic along with action needed

 

A goal or thesis is present, but does not make the authorís position clear, action needed is unclear

There is no goal, thesis, or action needed stated in the letter

Facts and Examples

All of the facts and examples are specific and relevant and support the authorís position. More than three facts, quotes, or statistics are used and are cited within the letter (i.e. according to USA Today, ďÖ..Ē).

At least three facts, quotes, or statistics are used and are cited within the letter.Most of the facts and examples are specific and relevant and support the authorís position.

At least two facts, quotes, or statistics are used and are cited within the letter

 

A few of the facts and examples are specific and relevant and support the authorís position.

Facts, quotes, statistics are missing.

Sequencing

Arguments and support are provided in a logical order that makes it easy and interesting to follow the authorís train of thought

Arguments and support are provided in a fairly logical order that makes it reasonably easy to follow the authorís train of thought

A few of the support details or arguments are not in an expected or logical order, distracting the reader and making the letter confusing.††

Many of the support details or arguments are not in an expected or logical order, distracting the reader and making the letter seem very confusing

Mechanics

No errors in spelling, grammar, or punctuation

A few (1-2) minor errors in spelling, grammar, or punctuation

Many (3-4) more than errors in spelling, grammar, or punctuation

Many (5+) errors in spelling, grammar, or punctuation

Format

Meets all of the requirements for proper format (see example)

Meets almost all of the requirements for proper format (1 error) (see example)

Meets several of the requirements for proper format (2 errors) (see example)

 

Meets a few of the requirements for proper format (3+errors)

 

 

The Conclusion

Thank you for exploring this problem, building a map of asset in our community and evaluating and coming up with improved policy around how we memorialize and celebrate public spaces. Deciding what is preserved and highlighted as important for future generations so they can see who has come before then and what was valued by their communities. It is also important for the community members in the present, it defines identity and introduces the neighborhood to visitors and community members. Can you imagine what type of landmark you would most like to see every day in your community? Investigate the steps to keep this process moving forward, you might impact your community spaces for generations.

 

 

Common Core State Standards

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.9-10.1.A

Come to discussions prepared, having read and researched material under study; explicitly draw on that preparation by referring to evidence from texts and other research on the topic or issue to stimulate a thoughtful, well-reasoned exchange of ideas.

 

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.9-10.1.B

Work with peers to set rules for collegial discussions and decision-making (e.g., informal consensus, taking votes on key issues, presentation of alternate views), clear goals and deadlines, and individual roles as needed.