Words That Inspire: We are the 1%

Some members of the 1% have shared messages of solidarity with the 99%. What goes into a sign that makes a lasting impression? Explore an activity to help your students understand—and create their own—powerful signs.

Click here to see Photo Essay: We Stand With the 99%

Photos courtesy of We Are the 1%: We Stand With the 99%

The Occupy Wall Street movement emerged in September 2011, touting the now-famous slogan, “We are the 99%.” The wealthiest one percent in the United States—those who make over $500,000 a year—owned 17.7 percent of the nation’s income in 2008, according to economist Paul Krugman. In this photo essay, the 1% share their messages of why they stand with the 99%.

Note to educators:

View the photo essay as a group, and have your students read aloud several of the signs. Direct your students to keep in mind what signs they find most powerful as they view them. Take extra time on two or three images to analyze them deeper. Ask your students what they notice about these signs; what else they are wondering; and what they think is the goal of the sign-bearer.

After viewing the photo essay, end your conversation with these questions:

  1. What makes a sign powerful? Let them draw on the examples they saw.
  2. If you had to create and hold a sign that represents you, what would that sign look like?

Now ask your students to think of something in their life that is important for other people to understand. You may agree on one theme as a class, or students may choose their own. Once students have crafted their messages (e.g. ‘I’m a girl, and I’m strong’ or ‘I’m a culture, not a Halloween costume’), they can create their individual signs. When everyone has finished making their signs, take a group photo to remind you of the unique identities within your group.

If your students choose individual themes, they may see unifying themes emerge as the group shares their signs with each other.  Look around—maybe you and your students will discover something unanticipated or unexpected, something that shocks or wows you about a person you learn with every day!

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