1. Beachfront Justice
In response to the Black Lives Matter movement, communities all over the nation have been looking for ways to address injustices experienced by African Americans in the past. In the state of California, Los Angeles County has done that in a way that is both historic and unprecedented. In a unanimous decision this month, the county Board of Supervisors voted to return a $20-million beachfront property to the Black family from which it had been wrongly taken nearly a century ago in an effort to prevent African Americans from having access to the beach. The property now known as Bruce’s Beach had been taken by eminent domain from Willa and Charles Bruce by officials of what is now the city of Manhattan Beach on the pretense it was “needed” for a public waterfront park. The Bruces had purchased the land in 1912 and established a hotel and dance hall that attracted Black beachgoers and property owners. They were harassed by White land owners and the Ku Klux Klan, and in 1924 officials seized the property and forced the Bruces out of town. In voting to return the land to the Bruce family, the Board of Supervisors declared “It is well documented that this move was a racially motivated attempt to drive out the successful Black business and its patrons.” The vote returned the land to the great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren of the Bruces. After the transfer, the county has agreed to rent the property from the Bruces for $413,000 a year or the family can sell the land to the county for its estimated value of $20-million. The return of Bruce’s Beach to the family of its former owners is an example of a community seeking to right a wrong from the past. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about another community moving to correct a past injustice. Use what you read to write an editorial offering your view on the effort and whether it is appropriate for the situation.
Common Core State Standards: Writing opinion pieces on topics or texts, supporting a point of view with reasons and information; reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it.
2. Bronco Diversity
In the world of politics and government, Condoleezza Rice was a groundbreaking leader. Under President George W. Bush, she was the first African American woman to be named the nation’s secretary of state and also the first woman of any race to serve as national security advisor to the president. Now retired from politics, Rice continues to break new ground. She has agreed to join the ownership group that is buying the Denver Broncos of the National Football League, giving the group a second prominent African American executive in a league that has been criticized for having too few Black executives in management. The ownership group led by Walmart heir Rob Walton previously announced that African American executive Mellody Hobson would be part of the ownership group. Hobson is chair of the board of the Starbucks Corporation, a director of JPMorgan Chase bank and the co-CEO of Ariel Investments. Since leaving government in 2009, the 67-year-old Rice has been the director of the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. She is widely known as a passionate NFL football fan and once was considered a candidate to be commissioner of the league. “Her unique experience and extraordinary judgment will be a great benefit to our group and the Broncos organization,” Walton said. Many businesses are seeking more diversity in their leadership teams. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about a business that is doing this. Use what you read to write a letter to the editor detailing how this business’s actions could be a model or inspiration for other businesses.
Common Core State Standards: Producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task; reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it.
3. Poet Laureate
Poetry is one of the finest forms of writing — “the best words in their best order,” as one famous poet put it. America honors poetry in a variety of ways, from celebrating National Poetry Month in April, to having poets create works for special events like the inaugurations of presidents, to appointing poets to serve as the poet laureate of the nation. The poet laureate is appointed by the U.S. Library of Congress, and the nation is about to get a new one. Forty-six-year-old poet Ada Limón has just been named the 24th poet laureate and will begin her duties promoting poetry in October. Born in California and now living in Lexington, Kentucky, Limón hopes to use the position to get people to restore their relationship with the natural world and to heal themselves and their communities after the traumas of the coronavirus epidemic, political divisions and the Black Lives Matter movement. “So many people right now are living in their own personal realities … amidst the chaos and trauma,” she told the Washington Post newspaper. “We’re not even given a moment to breathe, let alone grieve, because we’re on to the next hard thing.” Poets often write about important issues or “hard things,” as Ada Limón put it. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about an important or difficult issue facing the nation or your community. Use what you read to write a poem for the community calling attention to this issue. Your poems do not need to rhyme, but they should use vivid — and passionate — language. Read your poem aloud with family and friends — with passion!
Common Core State Standards: Demonstrating understanding of figurative language; applying knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts.
4. Saving the Sequoias
Global warming and intense heat waves have made wildfires a devastating problem in western parts of the United States. In the state of California this month, a wildfire nearly destroyed some of the oldest and biggest trees in the nation. The trees were giant sequoias in the Mariposa Grove in Yosemite National Park, and they were threatened when a wildfire known as the Washburn Fire burned right up to the edge of the grove. The sequoias, many of which are more than 2,000 years old, were saved by park officials setting up sprinkler systems at the base of the huge trees, and by firefighters setting small, controlled “buffer” fires to remove dry brush and bushes outside the grove. Firefighters also were aided by controlled fires that have been set on the floor of the grove in recent years to remove materials that could feed the advance of wildfires, the Vallejo Times Herald newspaper reported. Park officials said about a dozen of the 500 sequoias in the grove were scorched by the Washburn Fire, but none were killed. All the grove’s most famous trees, including the 209-foot Grizzly Giant and the Bachelor and Three Graces, remained safe. The Grizzly Giant is one of the oldest living sequoias in the nation, with an estimated age of 2,700 years. Wildfires in California and other states have already destroyed thousands of woods and other natural areas this year. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about the latest wildfires. Use what you read to write an environmental column telling how states, parks and the nation can reduce the risk of wildfires in the future.
Common Core State Standards: Writing informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly; citing specific textual evidence when writing.
5. Gowns for Brides
On wedding days, newly married couples receive lots of gifts from friends and relatives. In a town in the state of Ohio this spring, a new bride decided to give a gift as well — her expensive wedding dress. Gwendolyn Stulgis of Champion Township paid $3,000 for the champagne colored, v-necked lace ball gown — more than she had intended. But she loved the dress, and after her wedding she decided to make the most of her extravagant purchase, the Washington Post reported. She took to Facebook and offered the dress free of charge to a bride-to-be who couldn’t afford one. With one condition. After wearing the dress for her wedding day, the bride who received the dress would have to pass it on to another bride. The first recipient was Margaret Hyde, a woman who works at an auto-parts store and didn’t have a wedding budget for an expensive dress. Hyde was delighted to get the dress and pass it on after her marriage in October. But that was just part of the pay-it-forward story started by Gwendolyn Stulgis. When word got out of her generous offer, other brides came forward to offer their wedding dresses to women who could use them. They formed a Facebook group named Shared Dream Dresses and soon had more than 2,100 members. Within a month more than 100 brides received beautiful dresses for their special day. “It’s so lovely,” Stulgis said. People often make news by doing generous things for others. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about someone who has done this. Use what you read to design a thank you card for the person. Use an image from the newspaper or Internet for the cover and create a special message for the inside.
Common Core State Standards: Using drawings or visual displays when appropriate to enhance the development of main ideas or points; conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic.