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Racism: The Rosa Parks story

To reflect on the many injustices of the world and how a single person can make a difference.

by Jude Scrutton

Suitable for Key Stage 3

Aims

To reflect on the many injustices of the world and how a single person can make a difference.

Preparation and materials

  • You may need to prompt students for their parts in the assembly.
  • Some time for students to practise the play.
  • Masks to represent the people in the story.
  • A variety of books.
  • A reader to read the story of Jesus and the lepers.
  • Download one of the music suggestions for entry and exit (see below).
  • Optional for reflection: download part of Martin Luther King’s ‘I have a dream’ speech.

Assembly

  1. Hold up different books – some with exciting covers and some with boring covers. Ask students which ones they would most like to read. Students will be drawn to the most exciting-looking one . When they do this, read to them from a baby’s book or a ‘Peter and Jane’-type story. Then take a book that looks boring and read from an exciting  text with a great opening. Discuss the importance of not judging things on what they look like but that it is what is inside that counts.
  2. Read the bible story of Jesus and the lepers.

    On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee. As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance, they called out, saying, ‘Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!’

    When he saw them, he said to them, ‘Go and show yourselves to the priests.’

    And as they went, they were made clean.

    Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan.

    Then Jesus asked, ‘Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?’

    Then he said to him, ‘Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.’

    (Luke 17.11–19, NRSV).

  3. Discuss how lepers have been treated in the past and how Jesus’ actions would have been really special, even if he hadn’t have cured the leper.

  4. Introduce today’s modern story of one person’s actions changing the way people are treated. Tell children that this is a real-life story reenactment about a lady called Rosa Parks. Explain American rules of segregation of the 1950s, and that in 1955 a black woman was arrested for refusing to give up her seat on a bus to a white man.

    Scene:

    Open with ten students sitting in ‘bus formation’, including driver. Half of them white and half black (use masks or labels to say whether a student is African American or white if necessary). A (black) woman enters the bus and sits down in the middle.

    Narrator: In 1955, US laws stated that a black person must vacate their seat for a white person. When Rosa Parks, a 42-year-old woman, entered a bus, she was cold and tired. She sat in the middle. Later on in the journey a white man entered the bus and waited for Rosa to move.

    Rosa: I am cold and tired. I have worked a full day, and I refuse to move just because you are white. If you were a child or an elderly person, I would gladly give up my seat.

    Narrator: The white person became angry and complained to the driver. The driver contacted the police, and the police escorted Rosa to the police station, where she was charged. This meant that she would be tried in court. In the months between the incident and the trial, the incident sparked a boycott of buses, and the resulting trial found that Rosa Parks’s arrest for not giving up her seat to a white man was unconstitutional (explain what this means). This was one of a number of important events that eventually helped to improve race relations in America.

Time for reflection

Light a candle (play the download of Martin Luther King’s speech) and let the students consider any times in their lives when they felt they had been treated in a prejudiced manner.

Now think about any times when you have acted in a prejudiced manner.

 

Prayer

Help us to always look for the good in people, and to not judge people by what we can see. May we stand against prejudice of any kind.

Amen.

Music

There are many tracks about ‘black and white’, such as Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder’s ‘Ebony and Ivory’ or Michael Jackson’s ‘Black or White’.

Publication date: August 2010   (Vol.12 No.8)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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