Commentary Strange Fruit

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The suspension and arrest of Ahmed Mohamed had just hit the headlines when we recorded this week’s show. The gifted ninth-grader from Irving, Texas, built a digital clock at home and brought it to school to show his teachers. His English teacher saw the wires (and presumably Ahmed’s skin, and name) and assumed it was a bomb.

Police were called, and despite Ahmed’s unwavering insistence that his invention was a clock, he was suspended from school, arrested, and taken out in handcuffs. “I felt like I was a criminal,” he told MSNBC’s Chris Hayes. “I felt like I was a terrorist.”

Since our time in the studio, public support for Ahmed has been swift and abundant, much of it bearing the hashtag #IStandWithAhmed. He’s been invited to visit MIT, the Mars Rover project, Facebook’s offices, and even the White House.

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Many kids of color get an abrupt and ugly education in racism the first time they are profiled. It happened to Ahmed this week, and it happens frequently to young black men who are hassled (or worse) by police and other authority figures.

But since African-American studies aren’t usually taught until the college level, students Ahmed’s age can be ill-equipped to talk about race and deal with the realities of contemporary racism. Duchess Harris, African-American Studies professor and department chair at Macalaster College, would like to change that.

Dr. Harris co-authored a book called “Black Lives Matter,” aimed at 6th-12th graders, and she joins us this week to talk about why it’s important that kids of different races learn about race and racism while they’re young.

girlscanbeLaura Ellis | wfpl.org

In Louisville, a 10-year-old girl is doing her part to educate her peers about self-esteem. Olivia Allen noticed that as she and her classmates became pre-teens, fewer and fewer girls raised their hands or spoke up in class. “I kind of realized that some girls just lose their confidence around the age 10,” she explains.

She held an event in Louisville called “I Can Be: Girls Confidence Conference.” About 60 girls showed up to the conference, along with Mayor Greg Fischer, arts administrator Barbara Sexton Smith, and 2013 Miss Kentucky, Ashley Miller, who talked to attendees about the importance of believing in yourself.

Olivia, and her mom Anitra Allen, join us in the studio to share how the conference came about, how Olivia deals with discouragement in her own life, and what she wants to be when she grows up (she listed at least half a dozen career goals, and we believe she can achieve every single one).

Laura oversees WFPL's podcast strategy and produces Curious Louisville, where listeners submit questions and our reporters find out the answers.