Umi Selah, formerly Phillip Agnew, is co-founder and Executive Director of the Dream Defenders, a group dedicated to fighting for social justice through nonviolent civil disobedience, transformative organizing, and direct action.

What was Umi’s experience in college like before Martin Lee Anderson’s death?

How was Anderson’s death a “wake up” call for Umi?

Umi says that “Miami is nothing like what you see on television.” How do the images of Miami that we see in the media differ from the reality of life in Miami for many people?

Umi says hip-hop is the “language of the oppressed.” What does this mean? Can you think of an example of a hip-hop song or lyric that demonstrates this?

For Umi, there’s a difference between hip-hip and rap. What does he mean? Think of an example of what Umi would consider a hip-hop song versus a rap song.

On August 28, President Obama and other political leaders were at the Lincoln Monument to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, where Martin Luther King gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. Umi was invited to speak as a representative of the Dream Defenders, but at the last minute was cut from the program due to time limitations.  

So Umi took to YouTube to air his speech instead. Watch his “Two Minutes” speech at the 5:42 mark, or here.  

You can also read along to the speech with the written text.

What part(s) of this speech most stood out to you?

Do you agree or disagree with anything Umi said?

Inspired by Umi, a group of students at The Kindezi School in Atlanta, GA took part in a class called Real Talk: Hip Hop Education for Social Justice. They wrote and recorded their own two-minute speeches about issues important to them. Watch their speeches here.

If you were to write your own two-minute speech, what issues would you want to talk about and why?

Umi refers to a significant moment in Miami history – the McDuffie Riots. Read the following pieces about the riots and answer the questions in the Get Deeper section.


McDuffie Riots – 35 Yrs. Later

McDuffie Riots

McDuffie Riots (Photos)

1980 Poem

Use the articles in “Miami History” to answer and discuss the following questions.

According to The Arthur McDuffie Riots of 1980, why was Miami already at a “boiling point” before Arthur McDuffie was killed? (The phrase “boiling point” refers to the point when anger or excitement over something breaks out into violent expression.)

What evidence from McDuffie Riots: Eerie Scene From Miami Race Riot Of 1980 suggests that race relations in Miami have not changed much since the McDuffie riots?

Are the McDuffie Riots reminiscent of any current events from the past few years? If so, which, and in what way?

Do you think your own city, neighborhood, or school may already be at a “boiling point” over certain issues? What issues may they be? For example: police brutality, race relations, LGTBQ rights, gun violence, or even your school’s discipline policies.

Umi says that the death of Martin Lee Anderson was a wake up call. Read the article below about Anderson’s case and answer and discuss the following questions.

NAACP leads march over boys boot camp death

Anderson’s mother’s lawyer said, “You kill a dog, you go to jail. You kill a little black boy and nothing happens.” What does he mean? Do you think this is true?

Anderson’s death happened about nine years before the Black Lives Matter movement. In what ways do the protestors in the Anderson trail have similar or different demands to BLM?  

The Sixth Amendment to the Constitution guarantees the right to a trial by jury. A jury is a group of people who decide the verdict of a court case. The Florida jury found the seven guards and one nurse charged with Anderson’s death not guilty. Anderson was African-American, and the guards were white and African-American. The jury was all white.

After discussing with your teacher how jury selection works, read the following articles and answer the questions below.

Racism common in jury selection

All White Jury

What does Patrick Bayer say should be done to create more jury diversity?

Do you think an all white jury is capable of giving a fair verdict to a black defendant?

Do you think an all black jury is capable of giving a fair verdict to a white defendant? What about an all male jury and a female defendant?

For additional resources on how juries work, check out Scholastic’s Participating in the Jury System and California Courts’ “Why Do I Have to do Jury Duty?” lessons.