February 16, 2009
Looking for resources for Black History Month? Thanks to the wonderful Sacramento Educational Cable Consortium (SECC), you can read about my recent videoconference with Tuskegee Airman Alexander Jefferson, and then watch the clips:
Still in awe of how videoconferencing can enrich teaching and learning – way beyond the walls of the classroom.
January 19, 2009
I very much enjoyed Tuesday’s interactive videoconference with Tuskegee Airman Alexander Jefferson, who connected from Wayne State University in Michigan to an 8th grade US History class and a 12 grade African American Studies class in my district.
I had the good fortune to meet Alex last April while waiting for my luggage in the Denver Airport. Since he was wearing a Tuskegee Airman jacket, I could not resist introducing myself. As he shared his story of “fighting for the right to fight,” I immediately started thinking of ways that he could share his World War II experiences with middle and high school students. To top it off, he showed me a copy of his book, Red Tail Captured, Red Tail Free, which includes sketches from his time spent in a German POW camp for officers – the first time in his miliatry career that he enjoyed equal treatment as his fellow white officers. No question about it, students needed the opportunity to hear and learn from his first-hand experiences in a pre-civil right decade.
Nine months later, and with the help of the Berrien County’s energetic Janine Lim, we did it! Throughout a highly interactive hour, students learned that the fight for civil rights did not begin in the 60s. The Tuskegee Airmen persistently fought to overcome barriers and indignities, and in no small way laid the groundwork for what has transpired through the past 60+ years.
Today as we commemorate the life and sacrifices of Martin Luther King, Jr., and tomorrow as we head into a history-making inauguaration, I think perhaps the students participating in last week’s event will understand the anaology of the turtle on the gate post, who could not have reached that position without the help of many others – such as one Tuskegee Airman who has made a life career on taking a stand for social justice, fighting for the right to fight.
And what a good use of technology to take students beyond their school sites and community:-)
May 6, 2008
A highlight of my recent trip to Denver for the NWP‘s Urban Sites Conference was meeting Alexander Jefferson. He was on the same flight from Sacto to Denver. I spotted him at the baggage pickup zone. It probably seemed like an idiotic question, but seeing an African-American gentleman wearing a Tuskegee Airman jacket, I had to ask, “Pardon me, but were you a Tuskegee Airman?” As I stood with him for a few minutes, listening to his story, I vowed to think of ways to make his lived experiences accessible to other teachers – and their students. He was actually on his way to present to students in one of Denver’s public schools (saw his picture a day later in the Denver Times as he stood surrounded by young students).
Alex was one of 32 Tuskegee Airman to be shot down over Germany, and the only one to have written about the African-American experience behind barbed wired in a German prison camp: Red Tail Captured, Red Tail Free. From NPR’s recent interview, you can get an idea of his energy, his resiliency, and his commitment to fighting for social justice.
I hope within this school year to arrange a videoconference with Alex Jefferson (from Wayne State University) and teachers in my district’s Teaching American History grant – and to stream the event so that a nation-wide audience can learn from this extraordinary American.