Dr. Joseph Marshall Jr. is an author, activist, and veteran street soldier. Founder of the anti-violence movement Alive & Free, Marshall draws audiences from across the country to his weekly radio program, Street Soldiers—a name Dr. Marshall uses to describe people working to eliminate violence in their communities. To help keep his own community safer, Dr. Marshall co-founded the Omega Boys Club after years of working as a middle school teacher and seeing too many of his students lost to drugs and violence.
This lesson addresses the following Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) strategies and you can have students look for these issues and examine them in themselves.
Self-awareness: Dr. Marshall helps students become aware of their own lives and make the choice to be part of “the solution.”
Self-management: Dr. Marshall says that “change begins with you.” He provides tools and opportunities for students to change themselves.
Social awareness: Dr. Joseph Marshall Jr. started a worldwide anti-violence movement aimed at keeping youth alive and free.
Relationship skills: The Alive & Free model is based on positive role models and relationship-building for youth along with helping them get to know each other.
Responsible decision-making: Dr. Marshall asks students to make the decision to go to college. For those who make the choice to go to college, he supports them on that path.
1. Prior to showing the video, briefly explain the primary themes of the video. Use some or all of the following questions (include at least one writing prompt):
- What problems do you see in your communities? What can you do to make your community safer?
- Why is it important to set goals in life? Have you had any role models who have set goals in their lives? How did they work to achieve them?
- What kind of education do you need to achieve your goals? What are your thoughts about pursuing a higher level of education?
2. After watching the video, engage students in a dialogue about the film using some or all of the following questions (include at least one writing prompt:
- What do you think of when you hear the term ‘street soldier’? How did Dr. Marshall define the term?
- Do you know of leaders like Dr. Marshall? Who are some amazing people that you look up to in your lives?
- Dr. asked the Omega Boys Club members, “What are some things you feel like you need to work on?” If he asked you that question, what would you say?
- What were Dr. Marshall’s life goals? What are your goals and aspirations in life?
- What were Dr. Marshall’s Three Life Rules? Write a description of some examples for each one?
- What is the meaning of the phrase, ‘Change begins with you’? Think of your life and if you could change anything in the world, what would it be? How can change begin with you?
- What qualities do Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Dr. Joseph Marshall Jr. have in common?
- Read Dr. Joseph Marshall’s mission below. How can you keep that mission alive?
To keep young people alive and free, unharmed by violence and free from incarceration. To provide young people with opportunity and support to build positive lives for themselves and to move into contributing roles in society.
1. Have students do internet research on Dr. Joseph Marshall Jr., Alive & Free and the Omega Boys Club. Create a resource brochure about other youth development programs that work to end violence in the community. Identify similar programs in your town.
2. Have the students read and analyze this quote together. Have them write an essay on its meaning and whether the message is still appropriate today.
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial "outside agitator" idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.”
—Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Letter from a Birmingham Jail
3. Read Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail. Research the history of that letter. What were its impacts? Learn more about non-violent social change.
By Michael Ruiz and Becki Cohn-Vargas