Following the murder of George Floyd, a Black man who was killed via restraint by a white police officer in May 2020, there was a significant uptick in requests by U.S. public school teachers for books by or about African Americans.
Felisa Ford, however, wanted to take it a step further.
As a professional learning specialist with a focus on educational technology, Ford had an idea to meet children where they are to educate them on social justice. Then, she received an email from Minecraft asking if she would like to create content surrounding the movement.
Minecraft is a wildly popular video game brand in which players create and break apart various kinds of blocks in three-dimensional worlds. In February 2022, between 2.8 million and 3.6 million people played Minecraft.
Ford knew this was a big deal.
“The team at Minecraft said they were looking for an educator or minority educator who could help them speak to the social unrest that was happening. They also acknowledged there aren’t many of us in the gaming world,” she explained, also sharing she is a Global Minecraft mentor. “There aren’t many women in that world, either, so that’s why it was so important for me to help empower others with this this game.”
The educational game Ford created is called Good Trouble, named after civil rights leader Congressman John Lewis’s famous quote about activism—the Minecraft world allows students to explore civil rights movements through history.
In the game, Lewis is presented as an avatar, and greets the student players in the lobby of a virtual museum, guiding them through the “Good Trouble world.” While there, they meet figures like Malala Yousafzai, Rosa Parks and other activists. Ford said she wanted the gaming experience to run the gamut of activism, from righting the wrongs of racial injustice to exposing students to gender equality as well.
‘I made sure to feature Malala because we wanted girls in Pakistan to be able to see her fight for girls’ independence,” Ford said. “We also wanted students to see there have been others who have stood up and these were ordinary people.”
The game is obviously resonating with users, as its been downloaded more than 3 million times as of May 2021.
Because of her tireless work, Ford was selected as one of TIME’s Most Innovative Teachers of the Year presented by Verizon. Humbled by the honor, Ford says she’s just doing what she loves.
“I’m so blessed to have found my calling—it just so happens that what I’m doing is also making a difference.”