A Freedom Writer Toast For Change English Literature Essay

3370 words (13 pages) Essay

1st Jan 1970 English Literature Reference this

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A Freedom Writer named Maria entered class during the Toast for Change and was the first person to declare what she wanted to change in her life. Maria didn’t want to end up pregnant at fifteen like her mother, end up in prison like her father, or wind up dead at the age of eighteen like her cousin. She wanted a clean slate, and a bright future, but she didn’t want to start by reading Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl. Maria felt she couldn’t relate to Anne Frank, and on top of that she hated reading. Ms. Gruwell believed Maria would find herself within the pages of the book, and Maria wanted to prove her wrong. So one night as she read about Anne and the hardships she endured while living in the attic she realized Ms. Gruwell had been right! Anne and Maria have a lot of things in common.

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Even though Anne wasn’t Latina, and didn’t grow up in the same neighborhood as Maria, these two girls faced both discrimination based on the way they looked. After Maria finished the book Ms. Gruwell began to notice changes within her student. She had a better attitude in class, more focused on her studies, and became more interested in class material.

# 2 In the fall of 1995, a freedom writer was sent on a mission by her family. Her goal is to defend her own against and testify against a rival gang member. This young woman was a witness to a murder committed by her friend Paco. A rival gang member sat on the opposite side of the court room falsely accused of the murder. She was always taught to protect her family no matter the circumstances. Her mind should have been made up, lie and go home, but as she sat on the witness stand two natures were at war inside of her, good and evil. The good nature told her to do what is right and tell the truth, the evil nature kept chanting protect your own and send an innocent man to prison. The decision had not been so easy anymore and someone made what Paco thought would be a smooth trial into something her family and friends never thought could happen.

On the opposite side of the court room, sat the rival gang members family. Her eyes gazed over their faces, almost all were filled with anger except one. A woman the author described as being strong with tears in her eyes. Out of all the faces in the court room this one was familiar. The strong woman with tears in her eyes resembled all the author and her mother went through when her father was on trial. She saw her mother and herself in the woman’s shoes, and a flashback of the day her father was sent to prison. At that moment she knew what she had to do. It frightened her because this was not part of the plan, if she did what was right the mission would not be accomplished and the one principal that held her family together would be shattered. The image of her mother gave her the power to end the fight between right and wrong. In this court room she realized the power she possessed. She could give this woman what was denied to her mother so long ago, the truth and her family.

The lawyer begins to deliver questions; she snaps back to reality no longer thinking of Paco, the loyal gang members, or the code she was raised by. All that was left was the lawyer’s last question ringing in her ears. “Who shot the guy?” The most obvious answer, the truth was on the tip of her tongue and in that moment she gives her testimony, “Paco did it. Paco shot the guy!” (The Freedom Writers, 66)

Question # 3

In The Freedom Writers Diary, each Freedom Writer describes their hardships and experiences during their time in Ms. Gruwell’s class. Most Freedom Writers in one time or another struggled with finding stability at home and their surrounding environment. In Ms. Gruwell’s class the students find a home away from home. How Ms. Gruwell’s class became a sanctuary to each writer is different, but what remained the same among these students and their teacher was a bond only a healthy family could attain. I will analyze the hardships and challenges from Diary 62 of The Freedom Writers Diary. Where a young woman finds her own form of sanctuary in Ms. Gruwell’s class, and how this class helped her to understand that she is not alone.

The freedom writer has what many kids can only dream about, a loving family consisting of a mother, a father, brothers, and her Uncle Joe. Even though her family is poor, they live in a small apartment and the author has to sleep in the same room as Uncle Joe and her siblings. The unconditional love that engulfs this household fills her up with more riches than the richest man.

But in reality nothing last forever and strong walls of love and trust amongst her family members quickly crumble. It amazes the author how quickly life can change from normal to abnormal. One perfectly ordinary day turned into a sour night when she wakes to find her Uncle Joe groping her, touching her in places she quotes as making her feel dirty. She feels trapped and alone, who can she tell? Who would believe her? Would she risk breaking the walls of happiness that her other family members feel? She can no longer be comfortable at home.

Ms. Gruwell’s English class isn’t really a “class” by standard definition. It is a home for her students. Each student in a different way has embraced Ms. Gruwell’s class as a home, some with Ms. Gruwell personally and others with the material she taught. What most kids can only share at home with their families each student is able to express their feelings, fears, and stories. In the classroom, these students learned how to better themselves. Ms. Gruwell was a mother to these children and through her teaching she guided these young adults giving them long lasting advice only a parent can give.

In the author of Diary 62 she embraced the class through reading, The Color Purple. She connected with a character named Celie who was from a different life, and some far off place. She learned through reading about Celie how to channel her anger, and her pain and turn it into something positive. After all her hardships Celie had the courage to live. Realizing she is not alone the author of Diary 62 made a promise to herself that she will survive.

Question # 4

A quote that resonated strongly with me was from Diary 17. “I realized a peanut is still a peanut even if the shell is different. Some taste better, others look fresher, but in the end they’re all just peanuts.” I was strongly touched by this quote in a positive way. The circumstances that made this quote important to me were the story behind it.

The author of Diary 17 was overweight at the time she wrote this entry. She describes being made fun of because of her weight. I couldn’t believe her fellow peers threw garbage, and spit at her. It angered me when I read this. How can people be so cruel! Who gives others the right to judge how we should look? I believe people are all made the way they are supposed to, and no one has the right to put someone down for the way they look.

The quote affected me profoundly because I too believe people are all just like peanuts. Some are tall, some are short, some are big, some are small, some are light, and some are dark. At the end of the day we are all just people, trying to find ourselves. I have spent many years trying to find out what I truly like about myself. Was it my hair, my eyes, my lips or my body? I couldn’t choose because I didn’t like anything about what I saw in the mirror. ! I remember a time when I became so frustrated because I didn’t look like how I thought I should, that I spent months trying to achieve what I saw in fashion magazines, on television, and in movies. Of course I never reached these goals, because my body was never meant to look that way.

I have been told that I am pretty, and I certainly was never told that I was ugly, but I realize a million people can tell me that I am beautiful until their all blue in the face. But if I don’t feel beautiful on the inside and out what others say means nothing. So I decided to stop trying to change my body to what I believe other people want it to look like, and just continue to love myself and enjoy what God gave me, because in the end we are all just peanuts!

Question #5

Only one parent showed up for back-to-school night, but that one parent helped Ms. Gruwell bring other parents together to form a group The Freedom Writers nicknamed as Dream Team Moms. The Dream Team Moms helped Ms. Gruwell become acquainted with the community, chaperon field trips, lobby for donations, and made treats for the student’s potluck. The Dream Team Moms played an important role in helping to develop and nurture the students, which in turn helped shape them for success.

Question #6

Basketball for Bosnia was a charity event organized by Ms. Gruwell and her students. The event consisted of a basketball tournament to aid children in Bosnia. Food and medical supplies were gathered from people who attended the event. Many other events had taken place that day other than basketball such as cheer camps, and talent shows.

Over five hundred people attended the event, but these five hundred people represented something for the kids of Ms. Gruwell’s class. They represented a unity of family, and togetherness. Five hundred people from different ethnic backgrounds came together one day to support a cause for the children of Bosnia. For the first time I believe these young adults began to see the world isn’t always about fighting, drugs, and gangs. People are able to have fun with others who are similar and different than them and it doesn’t matter. This is the local impact the project brought to the people at Basketball for Bosnia.

A selfless act brought about by people in California to help children who have suffered in Bosnia is the international impact. The children in Bosnia may never forget the kindness shown to them by others hundreds of miles away. Children afflicted in a time of war and destruction will see that kindness still exists.

During my trip to Scoul, Switzerland I participated in a volunteer project benefiting the environment by cleaning the Alps. My friends and I along with people I never met before came together to keep the Alps beautiful. I was far away from home, and on vacation. I didn’t have to spend my time cleaning the Alps, but I knew that I loved living on this Earth and wanted to show her how much I cared to keep her safe. I also knew it was my duty as a human being to keep the planet safe and clean. Like Basketball for Bosnia I contributed to a place far from home. Not only did I help the Alps but also the people who visit to enjoy these mountains.

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At the end of the project we cleared broken branches, fallen trees, and planted new trees to replace those that were lost. It was a truly beautiful site that I will never forget. I felt as if I was on top of the world, the only thing higher than I were the snowy mountain tips.

Question #7

Labels are like titles, and adjectives, in other words labels describe people, places, and things. I think people label each other for many different reasons, some good and some bad. Many times labels are influenced by appearance. Maybe this is why labels get such a negative connotation because one should never judge a book by its cover. We as a society are so fond of labels because people like to put each other into boxes. Also grouping people makes it easier for others to distinguish people who are similar and different.

The funny attribute to labels is no one fits into just one. One person can fall into so many categories. It’s hard for me to decide which label I believe someone in Ms. Gruwell’s class would give me. If I tried hard to envision myself in her classroom as a different student looking at myself, I’d see someone weak, and soft. So if I could guess what someone would label me in Ms. Gruwell’s class it would be a punk.

Sitting in my Psychology class I was speaking to a friend about school work, and I guess it was a subject she and I constantly spoke about because one day a guy who sat two seats over told me I talked to much about school and that I was a nerd. I was shocked because I never considered myself a nerd. In order to be a nerd you had to be smart, socially awkward, and all that jazz. I for one didn’t think I met the qualifications it took to be a nerd. I thought about it for a while and decided to take it as a compliment. I like school, and while I am at school, I tried hard to do well and I talk about my school work, so if doing those things made me a nerd in someone’s eyes then so be it.

Everyone passes judgment before they get to know someone, I think its human nature, but there are ways to limit how much judgment is passed before learning who a person truly is. Meeting people and asking questions I feel is a good way not to pass judgment. By asking questions it keeps others from just assuming based on appearances this is what someone else like.

Question #8

I made a drastic decision not to go to the prom my senior year of high school. Before I made my decision not to go I had a date, and reserved a beautiful dress that would arrive in April. My mom was confused and couldn’t understand my choice not to go. Most girls can’t wait to go to their prom, but I was on the other side of the spectrum and dreaded even thinking about it

I am a outgoing person who loves to laugh, and have fun but sometimes I get this cloud of insecurity that keeps me from being who I am. I felt if I went to the prom people would stare at me or talk about me, all these crazy things that probably would have never happened if I went. One day, thinking about all the negative what if’s that could happen if I went to the prom I made a decision not to go. After I made the decision not to go, it was like a burden was lifted off my shoulders and all the negative feelings went away. The only problem left was to tell my family and friends I was no longer attending the prom. I told my mom the truth and she thought I was being silly and tried with all her energy to get me to go. My sister told me, “You’re a teenager. Teenagers don’t waste their lives being worry warts. They go out and have fun! Go to your prom, if you don’t you will regret it.”

At the time, it was important for me not to go to the prom because I wasn’t confident with who I am on the inside. To this day, a total three months later I do not regret missing my prom, so my sister was wrong about that. Although in a roundabout way she was right about a few things. I only get to be young once, and I don’t want to look back and realized I haven’t enjoyed my teenage years.

Question # 9

My father is big on misogyny between men and women. I am his only daughter and he constantly finds ways to cretic almost everything I do. Just yesterday I was eating small chocolate chip cookies the ones that can fit into ones mouths in one bit, and I did just that. I put the whole cookie in my mouth. He literally blew a casket! I am supposed to bite the cookie, not toss it in my mouth. Now any other time, I would have to agree but this was a small cookie and I was in the comfort of my own home. Then my father had his own soliloquy on how it is wrong for women to eat a in the manner I was. He went on to give me what if scenarios. What if a guy saw you eating that way? According to my father the young gentlemen would want nothing to do with me as soon as I stuffed a little chocolate chip cookie in my mouth. Bottom line women are supposed to have superior etiquette at all times, because one never knows whose watching.

My other example of an inequality between men and women is something I saw on the television show, Wife Swap. One wife solely depended on her husband for everything, food, shelter, and money. The husband would not allow his wife to have any job. He believed that a woman’s duty was to stay at home and take care of the children. The husband’s job was to provide for the family, and the workforce was no place for a woman. Even though taking care of the family is a full time job, the woman wanted to have her own freedom, and her own money. When I watched this episode I couldn’t believe people still believed women had limits on what they can or should do.

My mother knew a young woman who is Asian, and one day they were talking about college, because my mom works for SUNY Downstate Medical Center. The young woman told my mom that children used to make fun of her when she was young because she wasn’t on the stereotypically level of brilliantness that comes with being Asian. She would always be afraid to raise her hand in class, because if she got the answer right kids would tease her for being a nerdy Asian and if she answered the question incorrectly people would look at her funny, like isn’t she supposed to know the answer. She couldn’t understand why some people thought Asian’s were smarter than other races of people.

An inequality that still holds strongly today deals with sexual orientation. People, who are straight can receive a marriage license but in some states people who are homosexual cannot. Some people believe being gay is a problem that will only heighten if they are allowed to marry, but if someone looks at it simply on the surface: Gays can’t get married. Straight people can get married. This is an inequality, gays and straights are both people but yet one group is allowed something while the other is denied.

I believe America prides itself as being a melting pot filled with all different cultures, and ethnicities. If American society is plagued with inequalities the people of this country try their best to correct them. Sometimes inequalities take root and it beings to affect not only the American society but also the world in a negative and positive ways. People can begin to believe in these inequalities, which can hurt the certain group being discriminated against. Or people can rally against the discriminations and fight for change.

Question # 10

Yes, I think the media tends to focus on the negative attributes to a story, and has a habit of publishing articles, or broadcasting news that is sad and upsetting. Social networks and other media outlets will try to add details to a story, or blow a certain part of the story out of proportion. This can impact the way audiences will interpret the news brought to their attention.

The ability to have so much information accessible allows people to be informed quicker, which could save lives, and make people more comfortable. Having information easily accessible has its downsides. Life has now become an open book, and security has become stronger in order protect the privacy of citizens. With strong enhancements in technology it isn’t hard to find information on people, and places. Life can be very stressful if someone is in a position where privacy is an issue. People such as politicians and celebrities constantly struggle for normalcy with cameras that can spot someone a mile away.

Technology defiantly does not place a role in the disengagement of individuals and their communities. I can only think of ways technology enhances the engagement of individuals. Whether good or bad, technology allows people to interact globally, the earth has never felt smaller. I can speak to someone thousands of miles away through phone, Facebook, or email and I will never have to feel the distance. Technology such as television, cameras and computers have allowed individuals to see other cultures, and customs without having to step outside of their neighborhood, therefore enhancing the interaction between people and their communities.

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