Student view:

Tiffany Whittington: How a book can inspire activism

Feb. 6, 2019

Tiffany Whittington is a junior pursuing a degree in English and a minor in TESOL (Teaching English as a Second Language) in the College of Arts and Letters. She plans to use her education, literature and language to influence and change the lives of others, while finding ways to be an activist and give back to her community.

Activism has grown to be important to me over the years… especially when it directly relates to my community. When I was presented the chance to make even just the slightest difference, I jumped at it.

It was the beginning of the semester for me in Dr. April Baker-Bell’s English 302 course. I didn’t really know what to expect, but I knew that we would be reading Angie Thomas’s novel "The Hate U Give," so I was thrilled to see what that was about.

Once I began the book, I realized that it focuses on very serious issues that happen in the black community ranging from police brutality and oppression, to drugs and gang violence. It is an amazing book; once I started it, my eyes were glued to the pages.

One of the reasons I think the book is so good is because it did more than just tell the issues of a black community. It was uplifting and even acted as a sense of empowerment. It showed how one individual could use her voice to stand up against the odds and fight towards a change in society.

The book was so outstanding, when Dr. Baker-Bell informed us that the English department would be hosting an event series based off of "The Hate U Give," I knew that I wanted to participate as much as I could. The events consisted of a trip to see the book's film, a dialogue and Twitter chat, a collaborative with Detroit Denby High School and, lastly, a Teach-in for educators and prospective educators.

I attended every event. The movie wasn’t as great as the book, but the weakness in the film provoked interesting conversation during the dialogue and Twitter chat. I got to see many different perspectives of issues relating to the book, coming from students, professors and even members of the community.

The final two events — the collaborative and Teach-in — were my favorite. I especially enjoyed becoming an activist as I considered how to approach the events presented in THUG through the eyes of an educator.

The collaborative with the high school consisted of my peers and I creating and teaching lesson plans to be used in conjunction with teaching the book "The Hate U GIve." Through this experience, I was able to use my voice and teach high school students things that I wish I would’ve known when I was their age.

The Teach-in was a similar experience, as educators from various backgrounds presented their own unique lesson plans that they created to accompany the book. Both experiences challenged me to consider how I’ll teach sensitive topics like racism and police brutality when I am a future educator. However, after seeing others do it, I know that it is completely possible, and even more important in order to create an inclusive classroom environment and inspire future activists.