Plans - Activism
The Hidden Cities of San Francisco
The Rise of Community Activism
DOWNLOADABLE FILE (see PDF Instructions)
- U.S. History
When the city of San Francisco announced phase two of "urban
renewal" in the Fillmore district, the mostly African American
community was skeptical. The real impact of phase one, as James Baldwin
noted in 1963, was not improvement of life for residents, but the
"removal of Negroes." This time residents fought back. Ordinary
citizens became leaders as they formed the Western Addition Community
Organization, a group whose legal victory against the city marked
the first time in US history that the people won the right to participate
in their community's redevelopment.
MATERIALS & TIME
FOCUS FOR VIEWING
Fillmore becoming a ghetto; community activist Mary Rogers; Phase
A-2 of Urban Renewal; Reverend Hannibal Williams becomes a community
leader; the birth of the Western Addition Community Organization;
Hamilton hired as Redevelopment Agency director; WACO wins legal
New mayor Joseph Alioto; preservation rather than destruction;
promissory notes earned by WACO go unused because residents couldn't
afford new properties
- 1:24 Activist
Mary Rogers is the community
will analyze the birth of the Western Addition Community Organization
(WACO) and the rise of citizen leaders, and interpret the significance
of WACO's legal victory against the city of San Francisco for
will relate lessons learned about community organizing and activism
to issues today, identifying leadership roles and legal channels
to have an impact on their own communities.
class periods (60 min. each)
- Read "Resident
Experts: Neighbors study, solve problems" in The San
Francisco Chronicle (10/1/99).
What is the article about? How are community groups "expanding
their role as watchdogs by hunting down information to solve problems"?
How does community-based research differ from "traditional" research,
and why does it matter? In your opinion, what importance does
community activism have in a democracy? Identify problems in your
community and brainstorm strategies for community participation
in their solutions.
- Define: Community
organization, activism. 4. Introduce The Fillmore, a document
about a San Francisco neighborhood that was targeted for urban
renewal from 1949 through the 1960s. [Note: If the preceding lesson
(Urban Renewal) is not studied, it is advised to view or summarize
0:35-0:52 also and define "urban renewal."] Define:
- As you watch,
(urban renewal plan)
Herman (city official in charge of redevelopment)
Rogers and Hannibal Williams (community activists)
(Western Addition Community Organizations) and its accomplishments
- After watching
the video, be prepared to evaluate the successes and failures
of WACO's strategies to fight the city government.
Pause the tape
after segment 1.
community activists. What did they want? How did they become leaders?
Discuss their leadership qualities and compare to other ordinary
folks who have become leaders (e.g. the Civil Rights Movement,
the American Revolution, other countries).
WACO. Why was WACO helpless against Justin Herman? What strategies
did they employ to protest A-2, and what did they win?
Pause the tape
after segment 2.
the purpose of the promissory notes WACO won for local residents.
Why did 96% go unused?
In the end, how effective was WACO's legal victory in protecting
the interests of the residents of the neighborhood? Consider Carlton
Goodlett's statement: "Experience has taught minorities if
we don't start out right, we may not end up right." How could
WACO have achieved greater results?
organize to address an issue affecting their school community.
- As a class,
brainstorm problems affecting students' learning at the school,
exploring their causes within and outside the school. Examples
might include: violence, class size, school size, resources, teacher
turn-over, disciplinary policies, health conditions, class offerings,
- By vote,
choose one issue to address as a class. As a class, hypothesize
about possible causes of the problem. Based on their interests,
have students form teams to research the causes. Teams will collect
data, conduct interviews of authorities with influence over the
situation, and formulate a report. Teams will select a leader
from their group to report out to the class. Invite a community
organizer or activist from your city to talk with the class about
his/her job and strategies for making change from the grassroots
level. Invite a panel of youth activists into class to talk about
their experiences. Some possible groups to ask: YO! (Youth Outlook),
Third Eye, Youth Speaks, Urban Arts in Oakland.
of History: Civil Rights and the end of Apartheid
Research strategies used by Civil Rights activists and opponents
of South Africa's Apartheid regime to achieve change. Explore how
local activism, combined with national and international organizing,
organizing around key local issues
Extend the community organizing activity by connecting with other
classes, schools, or local community organizations to achieve greater
impact. Study recent success stories, such as Oakland Community
Organizations' Action for Small Schools (Oakland, CA 11/8/99, search
The Oakland Tribune [www.newschoice.com/newspapers/alameda/tribune])
to gain ideas for effective strategies. Interview members of effective
groups in person, by telephone, or via e-mail.
Invite community leaders to speak in class. How did they become
leaders? Did they always see themselves as leaders, or did their
concern for an issue require them to become one? What does it take
to be an effective leader and what mentorship possibilities exist
role of media in community activism. Contact KQED to learn about
Youth Media Corps where students learn how to use the media
to express issues of importance in their lives.
& Talking Back
Participate in online petitions and debates on issues of importance
to the local community as well as national and international communities.
or find talk-back sections on your local newspapers' web sites.
Join existing discussions or start new ones.
strategy session in class (a straight-forward guidebook
about community organizing ). Based on the qualities identified
earlier, the class should vote for a leader(s) to facilitate the
session who will spearhead future action steps. The leader(s) will:
- REPORT: Have
each team report on their findings.
- GOALS: Lead
the class in defining the goals of change and the key authority
figures who can help achieve them.
- SCOPE: Lead
the class in evaluating the scope of the goals to make sure they
are concrete, realistic, and highest-impact.
- ACTION PLAN:
Lead the class in developing an action plan based on clear strategies.
Possibilities include: rally (action), write-in campaign, petition
(Internet or paper), sit-in, or even a lawsuit. The action plan
should clearly state the responses expected of authority figures.
ROLES: All class members should have a job to prepare for the
action plan. Jobs may include: Event planning (organizing the
space, microphones, multimedia for presentations, etc.), Promotion
(attracting members of the community to attend, including other
students, parents, teacher, administrators, and politicians; consider
how the Internet can be used to draw participants, e.g. protesters
at the World Trade Organization Summit in Seattle), Publicity
(attracting media coverage of the event, including newspaper,
online, radio and television reporters), Managing speakers (inviting
and coaching both ordinary people affected by the issue and authorities
students take 20 minutes to write a reflective piece about the experience.
What worked and what would they do differently next time? How did
it change their feeling of power to make change? In what ways are
people who bind together stronger than individuals in confronting
students' written and oral reports, including understanding of
the goals of community organizing/activism, depth of research,
and rationale for suggested action steps.
- Have students
review their own and peers' performance in preparing and running
the community organizing activity, offering suggestions to improve
- Read and
respond to each student's reflective writings, offering feedback
on talents/abilities you observed him/her contributing to the
This lesson addresses the following national content standards found in the McRel Standards Database: www.mcrel.org/standards-benchmarks.
United States History:
31. Understands economic, social and cultural developments in the contemporary United States.
1. Understands ideas about civic life, politics and government.
9. Understands the concept of a constitution, the various purposes that constitutions serve, and the conditions that contribute to the establishment and maintenance of constitutional government.
11. Understands the role of diversity in American life and the importance of shared values, political beliefs and civic beliefs in an increasingly diverse American society.
14. Understands issues concerning the disparities between ideals and reality in American political and social life.
28. Understands how participation in civic and political life can help citizens attain individual and public goals.
29. Understands the importance of political leadership, public service and a knowledgeable citizenry in American constitutional democracy.
4. Gathers and uses information for research purposes.
5. Uses the general skills and strategies of the reading process.