A few years ago, my cousin Erik was cleaning out his parents’ home. His father (my uncle) had passed away and my cousins were charged with cleaning out their family home. As they went through closets of old clothing and boxes of stuff, Erik set aside an article his parents had clipped from a newspaper from the 1970s. Erik knew the clipping would be something I’d want to keep, and he mailed it to me.
The article tells the story of a fifth-grade boy who was helping to lead a lunch boycott at his elementary school. The district had raised lunch prices and the students were angry. The school cafeteria didn’t have a working kitchen at the time, so food was brought from a neighboring school. Because of this challenge, meals were often served cold, and the school couldn’t always count on having enough milk for all of its students. The increase in prices pushed the student body to its breaking point and several students decided to organize a school-wide lunch boycott. As one of organizers of the boycott, the fifth grader called the news to alert them of the protest. And when the Saturday paper featured the article on its front page, it created a whirlwind of controversy for the school and the student demonstrators.
“Pupils protest ‘lousy’ school lunches,” read the headline. But only one student was named in the article, the fifth-grade boy.
I was that fifth grader.
I apologize for taking this short stroll down memory lane, but I was reminded of my first foray into trouble making recently. As an educator, I often find myself having to advocate for the students I serve. But sometimes, like the story about the school lunch boycott, that advocacy can land me in hot water with others. Back then, that newspaper article landed me in the principal’s office. I remember being escorted to his office Monday morning where I met with the principal and the district superintendent. Now, I just receive an angrily worded email or a stern confrontation. That’s the result of trouble making, sometimes.
I think if I could travel back in time, I’d stop that little fifth grader on his way to school that fateful Monday morning. I’d explain that he had a difficult morning ahead, but he needed to keep his head up. I’d also share with him the wisdom that Representative John Lewis tweeted in June 2018. While Lewis was tweeting about a different movement, I think that little guy would find comfort in his words.
“Do not get lost in a sea of despair. Be hopeful, be optimistic. Our struggle is not the struggle of a day, a week, a month, or a year, it is the struggle of a lifetime. Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble.” – Rep. John Lewis
You’ll have to forgive me if this post is a little short, though. I’m off to make some trouble.