Dear Black Boy

by Martellus Bennett

Summary -

Martellus Bennett has always lived on the “authentic” end of the realness spectrum. In particular he speaks up about issues that impact the lives of black men, in and out of the NFL. Immediately after the back to back murders of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, he penned this message of inspiration and encouragement to black boys in The Players Tribune.

Genre - Non-fiction
Text Structure - Letter
Themes -self-concept, surviving trauma, learning to thrive in challenging circumstances, having determination and belief in oneself, quest for freedom and opportunity.

Rings of Culture Represented

Ethnic - black
Age -
7+
Gender -
boy/man
National -
USA

Why It’s Culturally Authentic

  • Bennett wrote this directly to young black men who are witnesses to murders like Castile and Sterlings.

  • Bennett and the letter have relevance and connectedness for young black men and boys

  • Bennett keeps it real while illuminating that black boys/men are not a monolith

  • It addresses the obstacles facing young black men and boys while validating and affirming who they are.

  • It challenges everyone to check their fear, bias, low expectations, and lack of empathy for black boys/young men.

  • It digs deep into the Iceberg of Culture, connecting to several cultural elements such as, notions of leadership, notions of justice, tempo of work, preferences for individualism or group, concept of ‘self’, concept of past and future, acceptance of frustration or pain.

Ideas for CLR

Set it Off (Into the Text)

Pre-Reading Tea-party + Shout Out

  1. Print several (10) different sentences from the letter on paper and cut into strips.

  2. Give each student a strip and have them stand up.

  3. Tell students they will move around the room and they will be sharing their strip by reading it aloud with another student one at a time.

  4. Once they meet up with another student they should greet one another appropriately

    • You can add in different types of greetings here, to practice situational appropriateness, i.e. formal dinner greeting, family reunion greeting, job interview greeting etc.

  5. Each partner will listen while the other reads their strip.

  6. Students then move to a new partner and repeat the steps.

  • You can remind students to speak to students that are not in their group and/or that they don’t usually speak to.

7. After students have shared with 5-7 people, use an attention signal like “Time To- Sit Down” to move them back to their seats.

8. Next, use Shout Out to have students share out what they think the text is about using one word/short phrases about:

  • theme, characters, author and any other things they notice about the topic of the text.

  • Record their ideas on a chart paper/board.

The Get Down (Through the Text)

Tag Reading + Three Things

  1. Select a student to begin reading (or you can begin reading). Have them stand and move/walk around the room while reading.

  2. Student should read at least one line/sentence, but no more than a paragraph/3-5 sentences.

  3. The reading student then “tags” another student. That student stands up and begins moving and reading, while the student that tagged them sits down in the reading students seat.

  4. Repeat until the text is complete.

  5. Students return to their original seats.

  6. Next, give students 3 prompts, and ask them to use a Moment of Silence, to go back over the text to identify their responses for Three Things.

    • Possible 3 Things Prompts:

      • Something that you connected with

      • Something that inspired you

      • A line that revealed the theme/author’s message

      • Something that makes you want to work for change

      • Something that caused an “Aha moment”

      • Something that gave you a good idea

7. Give students approximately 7 minutes to complete 3 Things

8. In groups of 4 have students share out/discuss their 3 Things answers.

The After Party (Beyond the Text)

Continue the discussion/analysis of this text by having students:

  • Read about Martellus Bennett and the release of his book Dear Black Boy , and then use Interview Design to synthesize and discuss both texts.

  • Write their own letter/poem about an important issue facing underserved communities

  • Have students do a 60 Second Radio Spot for the text.

Lydia McClanahan