Down These Mean Streets by Piri Thomas
11 Pages
English
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Down These Mean Streets by Piri Thomas

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Downloading requires you to have access to the YouScribe library
Learn all about the services we offer
11 Pages
English

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D own These Mean Streets by Piri ThomasStudy G uideOur Prison NeighborsThis is the story of life and transformation. It starts in Spanish Harlem, El Ba rrio, in 192 8, travels the country, finds meaning in the prison system and speaks powerfully to issues of justice and equity in our culture.Study of this book provides a window into the reality of a time, place and culture but also gives us a mirror of our own struggles and desire to find a productive place in the world.This book has served as the base for a two-mo nth class at MC I – C oncord, Massachusetts. Our Study G uides are posted on our website (www.OurPrisonNeighbors. org) so that others can use them in a group or make them available for self study on the library shelf. There are also handouts for four frameworks of development which serve as excellent tools for reflecting on Piri’s development and maturation. Prisoners are also encouraged to reflect on their own lives in terms of these frameworks. We provide composition books to use as journals. G roup members don’t often choose to share their writing but many take notes, list vocabulary, reflect in writing or just keep a journal.Levels and opportunities for study and learning in this book:Racial awareness and empathy - this book has much to say about the importance of understanding racial and cultural identity for all of us. When we are deeply rooted in our own identity, we can recognize injustice and be allies to other groups ...

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Down These Mean Streets by Piri Thomas Study Guide Our Prison Neighbors
This is the story of life and transformation. It starts in Spanish Harlem, El Barrio, in 1928, travels the country, finds meaning in the prison system and speaks powerfully to issues of justice and equity in our culture.
Study of this book provides a window into the reality of a time, place and culture but also gives us a mirror of our own struggles and desire to find a productive place in the world.
This book has served as the base for a two-month class at MCI – Concord, Massachusetts. Our Study Guides are posted on our website (www.OurPrisonNeighbors.org) so that others can use them in a group or make them available for self study on the library shelf. There are also handouts for four frameworks of development which serve as excellent tools for reflecting on Piri’s development and maturation. Prisoners are also encouraged to reflect on their own lives in terms of these frameworks. We provide composition books to use as journals. Group members don’t often choose to share their writing but many take notes, list vocabulary, reflect in writing or just keep a journal.
Levels and opportunities for study and learning in this book: Racial awareness and empathy  this book has much to say about the importance of understanding racial and cultural identity for all of us. When we are deeply rooted in our own identity, we can recognize injustice and be allies to other groups. Personal awareness  through journal writing we can explore our own lives and reflect on comparisons to Piri’s. The journals are confidential and for your own use. If you want to share some writing, the group should respect your confidentiality and efforts. We will look at four models of human development; Erikson’s psycho social stages, Kohlberg’s stages of moral development, John Fowler’s stages of religious development and Helm’s and Cross’s stages of racial identity formation. We can trace these stages in Malcolm’s life and reflect on them in our own. A number of other books will be available which illustrate these forms of development in many differing cultures and times. A goal is to read a book, or books, from our own culture, from a different culture and from a woman’s perspective. As we grow in appreciation for the strength in all cultures, we will discuss ways to be allies to each other. Study skills  note taking, vocabulary, outlining, essay writing, memoir writing...
 Sessions I.Introduction of the book and brainstorm what we know about the Depression and Harlem. Information about Piri Thomas and some his poetry are available at:http://www.cheverote.com/piri.htmlRead aloud some of Piri’s poems or writing
from the website and/or the Prologue to the book. Introduce the idea that reading can be a mirror of aspects of our own lives and/or a window into a different time and culture. Reading can allow our minds to be free even when we are in prison. Introduce the suggestion/challenge/assignment to read a book to deepen our own cultural heritage, a book about another culture and a book from a woman’s point of view (or from a man’s if it is a class of women) Introduce the Stages of Childhood. Discuss and share examples as the group is comfortable. It is important to stress that these are theories and that it is believed that we can go back and make peace with difficult stages in our own lives. Leading an examined life helps us grow to our fullest potential. It is to be expected that the more stressful a life has been the harder it is to successfully develop. In terms of the moral development levels, I can find examples of all of them in my adult life. The level of my functioning varies depending on the amount of stress in my life and just because I don’t act on all my worst impulses doesn’t mean that I don’t have them. Assign Chapters 17 pages 169. Hand our study questions:
Harlem 1. Cutting Out What have we learned about the family? Describe their relationships. What was your family situation?
2. Rican Paradise What were the warm family moments in this chapter? What were some special times in your family?
3. Playing It Smooth How does Piri’s neighborhood compare to the one where you grew up? What were your early experiences of death? When you were young, what did it mean to be a man? Compare Piri’s relationship with James to one in your own family.
4. Alien Turf Describe the process of Piri’s integration into the neighborhood? Describe an experience you had moving into a new neighborhood.
5. Home Relief What do you think it is like for a child to need to translate for their parents? Think about any contact your family or friends had with social services. In what ways is it different toady and in what ways is it the same?
6. If You Ain’t Got Heart, You Ain’t Got Nada
How does Piri use his brain to minimize his danger? How do you think frequent moves affect children? Describe a time you moved. Comment on the culture of Heart as a reaction to stress.
7. Little Red Schoolhouse This chapter goes back to a younger age. What factors make school hard for Piri? What was school like for you?
8. In Business How did the kids try to earn money?  What so you think they want money for? What does it represent to them?  What roll did money play in your childhood?
Session 2 Discuss Chapters 1-7. Identify ways Piri shows or doesn’t show the developmental levels at this time. Invite reflection on personal recollections of this period of life. Identify sources of stress and lack of support in Piri’s life. Assign Chapters 8-12 pages 79-128. Hand out study questions.
Suburbia 9. Babylon for the Babylonians How did Piri and his family deal with Paulie’s death? Have you lost a sibling? How can the stages of Racial Identity Development help us understand what happens in this chapter? For Piri? For Angelo? How do you recognize allies or how can you be one?
10.But Not For Me What might have caused Pops’s infidelity? Why couldn’t he make a life supporting his mom and mentoring his siblings? There are many adolescent books about young boys needing to step in to be the dad; Old Yeller, Shilo
Harlem 11. How to Be a Negro Without Really Trying How does Kohlberg’s Stages of Moral Development explain Piri’s betrayal of Lorry and the Puerto Rican girl? How does Mr. Christian hide his racism? Why so you think he excludes Blacks?
12.My Marine Tiger Trina is Piri’s first serious crush/love. How does this compare with your experience? How could Piri have avoided snorting heroin?
13. Hung Up Between Two Sticks How does this chapter show the need to develop a racial identity? Would this be needed is Piri was white?
Session 3 Discuss Chapters 8-13 as above. Pass out and discuss the Stages of Adolescence. Assign Chapters 14-18 pages 129-191. Hand out study questions.
Suburbia 14. Learning Some New ABCs What examples of homophobia have we read? How does this compare with your upbringing? What do you think sexual identity development looks like for a minority group? Why do you think Piri wanted to do the talking at the Merchant Marine?
15. Brothers Under the Skin At this time the South used the ‘One Drop’ formula to determine race so that no matter how light skinned you were, if it was known that you had any Black ancestors, you were considered Black. In a society where you were likely to live in the same area for generations, this had total power to identify you. Is Piri’s pain the idea of being Black or the family’s denial and refusal to join him in this identification?
16. Funeral for a Prodigal Son In what ways does Piri establish a new level of independence and maturity? How do members of his family show respect for his desire to find his own identity?
Down South 17. Gonna Find Out What’ Shakin’ Why is it harder to be a Black woman than a Black man? Why does Brew become so tender to Alayce after hitting her? What are Piri’s first lessons about being Black in the south?
18. Barroom Sociology What might you say about the racial identity of these three men?
19. Las Aguas del Sur Many white people claim that they are not prejudiced and that racism isn’t so bad but are clear that they wouldn’t change their race. How does Piri indicate this? How is the steward an ally? How does Piri deal with the chief mate? What happens in the restaurant in Mobile? What was Piri’s motivation in Texas? What do you think might have happened to Brew? What advice does Isaac give Piri after he fights the Swede?
Session 4 Discuss Chapters 14-18 as above. Assign Chapters 19-23 pages 192-238. Hand out study questions.
Harlem 20. Home, Sweet Harlem Describe this family drama.
21. Hung Down Did Waneko taper Piri’s fixes? Why did he recommend it?
22. Real Jesse Jamses What are examples of Piri having empathy for his victims? What shows that he really isn’t ‘cool’ enough for this work? Is this true of most criminals or are most truly hardened?
23. Wish It Were You, Trina When Piri is open and takes limited responsibility, people accept it. What makes it so hard for us to do this most of the time? This is a good example of an assertive response to the situation. What does Piri’s response say about Piri’s functioning levels of Moral Development and Psychosocial Development at this time?
The last sentence:”But it wasn’t gonna be like that.” Is foreshadowing. The author is letting the reader in and hooking them into wanting to find out what will happen next.
24. If You’re Gonna Pray – Then Pray Big What were the clues that this wasn’t going to go well? Was the woman who tried to hug Piri trying a non-violent intervention? Compare Piri’s scared and empathetic thoughts to his tough actions.
Session 5 Discuss Chapters 19-23 Hand out and discuss Stages of Adulthood Assign Chapters 24-32 Pages 239-306. Hand out study questions.
Prison –I hated the evenings because a whole night in prison lay before me, and I hated the morning because I felt like Dracula returning to his coffin.
25. The House of ”Do-Right’ Although Piri is surrounded by people there is a sense of isolation. What could contribute to this? How do the sentences of Louie, Danny, Billy and Piri compare?
26. Breaking In Piri had a half-day of work and a half-day of school. How would you structure a day? Reflect on similar experiences you have had. In what ways id this a mirror of your experience and in what ways is it a window?
27. Mucho Days and Nights on Gray Piri hates the monotony most. How can you engage in life to beat the monotony? What does it mean to be ‘jail-wise’ in picking your friends? What role did Kent play for Piri? Piri describes growing up in terms of a beard, a broad chest and a deeper voice. In what ways has he not grown up? Piri fights Little to find release from the pressure. What other ways are possible? Describe Casey.
28. Sex in the Can Piri helps Tico. Did anyone help you learn to stay out of trouble? Have you helped others?
29. No More Mananas for Us, Trina Recap how special Trina was for Piri.
30. Sweatin’, Man, Sweatin’ Describe Piri’s thoughts and feelings as he faced parole and after. How was the chaplain an ally? Describe Piri’s thinking about choosing between the life of a con and life on the street.
1. God, Ain’t You for Everybody?
How is ‘dignity’ a more mature concept than heart?
2. Great, Man, Great; I’m Thinking Like a Stone Philosopher  How does Piri show increasing maturity?
Session 6 Discuss Chapters 2432 as above. Note examples of Piri acting in accordance with more adult levels of development Assign Chapters 3335 and the Afterword. Hand out study questions. New York Town
3.Free Side Is the Best Side How has Piri changed between the ride to Comstock and the ride back to New York? What are Piri’s first mature actions outside the wall?
4.Hay, Barrio – I’m Home  What are the stages Piri goes through in returning home?  Think of who you were six years ago. Would a relationship from that time still have relevance?
5.I Swears to God and the Virgin How does this ending make you feel? What points toward transformation and what points toward a return to drugs? Why do you think Piri didn’t continue the book to show his successes?
Afterword to the Thirtieth-Anniversary Edition Where can you find the nourishment of love? What lessons were you taught growing up that you want to live by? What lessons were you taught that you want to change?
Session 7 Discuss Chapters 33-the Afterword as above. Reflect on Piri’s growth throughout the book and encourage personal sharing. Show and discuss the first part of the Denzel Washington – Spike Lee movie Malcolm X. Look for parallels between his life and Piri’s. Note examples of the developmental stages.
Session 8 Discuss and review the movie so far. Show and discuss the remainder of the movie as above. Hand out certificates.
Wikipedia Articles to Support Learning About Down These Mean Streets The Great Depression Nation of Islam Black Muslims Islam
Websites of interest: Child Development Institute article on Erickson’s Stages of Psycho-Social Development http://www.childdevelopmentinfo.com/development/erickson.shtml
Chapter of a psychology text on Kohlberg and his Theory of Moral Development -http://faculty.plts.edu/gpence/html/kohlberg.htm From Joann Wolski Conn (ed.),Women’s Spirituality: Resources for Christian Development. (Paulist, 1986), pp. 226-232.http://faculty.plts.edu/gpence/html/fowler.htm
Article on Racial Identity Development from Pierce College: http://www.pierce.ctc.edu/tlink/development/theme_identity_and_cohort/race_stages.htm
Article about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs: http://psychology.about.com/od/theoriesofpersonality/a/hierarchyneeds.htm
An Article about Defence Mechanisms especially interesting is Vaillant’s leels. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Defence_mechanism
Books Recommended for Further Study People’s History of the United States – Howard Zinn Manchild in the Promised Land – Claude Brown Malcolm X: A Force for Change - Nikki Grimes Color of Water - McBride, a biracial man remembers his white mother Black Ice - Lorene Cary, African-American woman Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters First 100 Years - Sarah & Elizabeth Delany Angela Davis: With My Mind on Freedom - Angela Davis - African- American woman-1960’s If They Come in the Morning - Angela Davis and others in the 60’s I Am the Darker Brother: An Anthology of Modern Poems by Black Americans The Fire Next Time - James Baldwin, African American in the 60’s Going to Meet the Man - James Baldwin, short stories No Name in the Street - James Baldwin Just Above My Head - James Baldwin, novel Nobody Knows My Name - James Baldwin, autobiographical essays I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings - Maya Angelou Wouldn’t Take Nothing for My Journey Now - Maya Angelou, African American woman Coming of Age in Mississippi: An Autobiography - Anne Moody You Can’t Keep a Good Woman Down: Stories by Alice Walker A Different Mirror: A Multicultural History of the United States – by Robert Takaki Finding Freedom – by Jarvis Jay Masters The Soul Knows No Bars – by Drew Leder There Comes a Time – The Struggle for Civil Rights – by Milton Meltzer Black Like Me – by John Howard Griffin White Like Me – Tim Wise Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? - Dr. Beverly D. Tatum Uprooting Racism - Paul Kivel
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