Wee Chalk the Walk
When faced with extreme injustice, how can we stand up and be a force for change in the world? By using our voices, bodies, and imaginations to ACT and RESIST.
On May 31, 2020 Wee The People, the Philly Children’s Movement, MassArt's Center for Art and Community Partnerships and Books for Littles: Raising Luminaries Kidlit for Wee Chalk the Walk, a Family Day of Action in direct response to the impact of COVID19 on Black and Brown lives, the ongoing profiling and harassment of people of color, and the killings of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd.
For health and safety, this Day of Action happened on our own blocks, with simple kid-friendly activities Wee hope will spark urgently needed conversations with kids about racial injustice and the choice we can make to speak out.
Wee Chalk the Walk: Playlist and Reading List
THE SOUNDTRACK to the head and heart work: It's the Wee Chalk the Walk playlist. To support and inspire families on our day of action, we paired songs from the playlist with children's books that echo the song's themes.
These songs sing uncomfortable truths: If you really want to hear our views, You Haven't Done Nothin'. The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, so take a Moment to Reflect and confront that This Is America. And it has always been, starting with The Square We Call Congo.
This Is America by Childish Gambino, is labeled "Explicit" for one word (mother***)
Living In the City by Stevie Wonder, features dialogue at the end with a police officer using the N-word.
Black Man by Stevie Wonder, uses terms "Red man" and "Yellow man" to describe contributions to American history by Native and Asian Americans.
Artist: Amel Larrieux
Book: Freedom in Congo Square
Carole Boston Weatherford, Gregory Christie
Kids lie from time to time. When they've done something wrong -- and especially when they've hurt someone -- we often don't get the full story the first time. Or the second. That's the story of White America with Black people and slavery. We've never told the truth about what happened and how much harm we caused. That's why we're here now. Question: What can we do today and after today to tell the truth about the harm done to Black people by White people in our country?
Ask your child what freedom means to them. They will typically talk about the freedom TO DO something. In a racist system, Whiteness automatically grants freedoms TO things and freedom FROM things: mistreatment, harassment, suspicion, brutality. A major injustice in our country is that White people and systems regularly deny Black people the freedom to MOVE FREELY. That's been true since White people put Black people in chains, brought them here and forced them to work for free under slavery. It stayed true in the time of Martin Luther King, when White people made it so dangerous for Black people to travel that they had to write a book with a list of safe places for them to travel. And it is STILL TRUE RIGHT NOW.
Song: Watching Me
Artist: Jill Scott
Book: Ruth and the Green Book
Calvin Alexander Ramsey
Song: Black Man
Artist: Stevie Wonder
Book: The Undefeated
Kwame Alexander and Kadir Nelson
The way we talk about racism can perpetuate racism. From a young age, when young kids do hear about racism, it's something that happened to someone "because they were Black." NO. Something happened to that person because White people made choices and keep making the choice to believe the terrible lie that there is something wrong with being Black. As a White parent, I don't believe that lie -- AND it's also true that I grew up seeing and hearing it so much that I can end up making choices that keep that lie alive, even though I don't mean to. How can we make sure we're thinking about the ways racism lives inside us, and make choices that disrupt it? Let's read a book that tells the truth about the incredible history of Black people in our country.
Artist: Janet Jackson and Michael Jackson
Book: Milo's Museum
No one actually screams in "Milo's Museum" -- our go-to book to talk to kids about the racism in social systems and structures, which are much harder to see. But a Black girl named Milo absolutely does feel some powerful emotions after going to a museum that could be MFA, Boston, and roams among galleries that tell her she does not belong.
The pain Black people in America feel is layered and complex. We/They feel angry, sad, scared, and invisible when Black people are hurt or killed. But there's a longer, deeper pain, centuries long, that comes from the way White people have erased or lied about Black people and Black history over and over and over. That includes on TV, in our history books, in magazines you pick up at the dentist's office. If someone with a lot of power kept telling lies about you or me or our family, and the lies were everywhere all the time, I would be screaming, too!
How can we get really good at noticing the times and places where White people are telling other people's stories instead of letting them tell their own story?
Book: Ona Judge Outwits the Washingtons: An Enslaved Woman Fights for Freedom
Gwendolyn Hooks and Simone Agoussoye
Toni Morrison once said of race, “Can’t you see? It’s all a distortion. It’s all made.” You couldn’t build a bunch of lamps or chairs, plant them in the ground, and convince a kid that they grew naturally from the earth with a shape, size, weight, or color. But that is what the lie of race would have us believe: that some people are White, some people are Black, and they sprang from nature with different intelligence, beauty, morality, potential, worth.
The story of Ona Judge is an impactful way to start poking holes through the lies of racial superiority and inferiority. Ona, who was enslaved by George and Martha Washington and made a desperate escape to New Hampshire for her freedom -- had a Black mother and White Irish father. The lightness of her skin in picture books does not mesh with her slave status. You can't make it make sense to a child, and that's a perfect starting point.
Artist: Arrested Development
Book: Malcolm Little: The Boy Who Grew Up to Become Malcolm X
There is a serious problem with the fact that when kids first learn about Malcolm X they're likely to hear him described as a militant who preached hate -- especially because there are any number of ways to easily debunk that misconception: Spike Lee's biopic film, Malcolm's actual autobiography, songs like this one, and the children's book written by Malcolm's daughter, Ilyasah Shabazz.
Song: Gone 'Til November
Artist: Wyclef Jean
Book: How Mamas Love Their Babies
Almost as soon as my kids learned that drugs were bad and illegal, or that "women of the night" traded sex for money, they got super judge-y about drug dealers and sex workers. Why did that happen? Because our society told them to. This is when it's important to reframe anti-Black, anti-woman narratives around crime. The crushing weight of race- and gender-based oppression, and the racism and misogyny embedded in the legal system, make it inevitable that people will use their bodies or hurt their communities to survive -- and that they will criminalized in the eyes of the law. We can teach kids to question the systems that lead to deeply inequitable and harmful outcomes for so many. It starts with humanizing the people and groups society has worked so hard to strip of their humanity.
Song: Rhythm Nation
Artist: Janet Jackson
Book: Let the Children March
Monica Clark-Robinson and Frank Morrison
You can count on a room full of wide eyes and open mouths when kids in our workshops learn that kids their age or just a little bit older packed local jails in one of the most dangerous cities for Black people during the Civil Rights Movement: Birmingham, Alabama. Here's what else they learn:
* Sometimes, the police not only fail to protect us, they become deadly forces of danger that Black people must be protected from
* The police can't jail everyone. There's not enough room. If enough kids make brave choices for justice, justice can win.
Song: Ella's Song
Artist: Aaron Neville, Sweet Honey in the Rock
Book: Lift As You Climb: The Story of Ella Baker
Patricia Hruby Powell and R. Gregory Christie
A mass action is a point in time. It has a beginning and an end. For White families especially, that end HAS TO BE THE START of work that will continue for the rest of their lives, and their children's lives.
The annual, whitewashed treatment of Rosa Parks and MLK we know as "Black History Month" will not produce the next generation of anti-racists. But a true reckoning with White supremacy and Black resistance movements might. Find out about W.E.B. Du Bois, Thurgood Marshall, A. Philip Randolph, Diane Nash, Stokely Carmichael, and Bob Moses. You can start by teaching your kids about the legend who nurtured, mentored, and walked with ALL of them: Ella Baker. A radical force for grassroots Black feminist activism, Ella Baker literally paved the way for the founders of Black Lives Matter.