Middle Schoolers Find their Power in Lessons about Race

Our 7th and 8th grade students are jump-starting their year with a serious exploration of race and racism in America. Led by Ms. Patilla, our students are in the midst of a unit called “I am Beautiful,” about colorism.


Antwanai Miller (8th), Nia Skeete (7th), and Trayvon Ricks (8th) pose with their self-portraits and paragraphs about why they are beautiful.

The 7th and 8th grade students began the year with a self portrait. The students were asked to examine their beauty and to take time to examine their physical selves. Once students defined their beauty, we introduced society’s ideas and the stereotypes that are associated with their skin color. This exploration led to the concept of colorisim. Currently, students are learning about the origins of colorism and it’s effects on differing communities.

Our students are searching for their power to affirm their racial identities and to counteract the negative messages about skin color that they receive from society and the media. The affirmation of students’ racial identities and the exploration of the colorism set the stage for the year’s study of African American history, beginning with American slavery and ending with the Civil Rights Movement.