honoring king 2019

This day for me was not merely a national holiday but a holy day where I got to honor sacred rhythms of rest and contemplation.

Reflecting on King’s legacy, I recalled that my earliest childhood learnings about him where fraught with bellyache-inducing worry and fear about the KKK and other white supremacists who brutalized, jailed and ultimately assassinated MLK and fellow Civil Rights activists. By my teens, the quickening in my gut turned into quiet groans of exasperation and impatient disinterest at the same regurgitated stories.

In all fairness, it wasn’t was limited to King — history, categorically, was made boring by the majority of my teachers, in both the public + private schools I attended.

What I ask now, as a parent, devoted learner, homeschool educator and facilitator who values and cultivates liberating spaces:

Whom does it serve to keep us bored, disinterested, fearful, anxious and disconnected from the histories of our people?


“Most of the “brethren” think that education should equip them with the proper instruments of exploitation so that they can forever trample over the masses…

Education must also train one for quick, resolute and effective thinking. To think incisively and to think for one’s self is very difficult. We are prone to let our mental life become invaded by legions of half truths, prejudices, and propaganda. At this point, I often wonder whether or not education is fulfilling its purpose. A great majority of the so-called educated people do not think logically and scientifically. Even the press, the classroom, the platform, and the pulpit in many instances do not give us objective and unbiased truths.

To save man from the morass of propaganda, in my opinion, is one of the chief aims of education.

Education must enable one to sift and weigh evidence, to discern the true from the false, the real from the unreal, and the facts from the fiction…

We must remember that intelligence is not enough. Intelligence plus character—that is the goal of true education…If we are not careful, our colleges will produce a group of close-minded, unscientific, illogical propagandists, consumed with immoral acts. Be careful, “brethren!” Be careful, teachers!”

— Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., The Purpose of Education


Thinking of all the WHOs, WHATs and WAYs that MLK’s life may have been inspired by, intersected with and inspired the stories/creators of stories represented in this sample selection of books we have read over the years.

I curate my kiddo’s learning in ways that bring context and build connections between people and events in our (ever-unfolding) history.

 

Read the full text here: The Purpose of Education

how we hanukkah

Blessed is light in the world;
Blessed is the light in humanity; Blessed is the light of Hanukkah.
— Humanistic Hanukkah Blessing

yesterday, stirred by instinct, i decided that we’d create our own hanukiah. (lemme take a sacred pause here to emphasize how Spirit truly moves through us because i had not even checked the calendar to see when Hanukkah fell this month!) only now as i write am i connecting this intuitively-inspired action to heart-seeds nourished by Sangha’s reflection on what we have inherited, the quality of how we give + receive, and what we transmit.

🕯 what have i inherited? the soul-deep call to explore the spiritual legacy of my jewish ancestors dora, gottlieb + mary roth.

🕯 how do i give + receive? by trusting curiosity + call to move beyond ideologies + orthodoxies about how to celebrate/worship. by telling new stories + making new practices + memories.

🕯 what do i transmit + pass on? imagination, creativity + openness to be expansive with how we live out the yearnings of our spiritual hearts, which are compelled toward what feels nourishing.

so on tuesday night, we took turns re-reading Hanukkah Moon by Deborah Da Costa + inviting the bell. i recited a prayer before K lit the first candles. then the kiddos ate brownies to sweeten the day.



first light of hanukkah:

the light of reason that teaches us the difference between right and wrong.
(*)
— Marilyn Rowens, Secular Humanistic Judaism


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(*) dualistic language that I always expand to “skillful” and “unskillful” to acknowledge the range of context and conditions as well as the process of learning, stretching, deepening, revising, evolving as we grow through, test out and experience actions that create suffering/harm and those that cultivate freedom/healing from suffering/harm.

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#BodhicittaBookshelf

📚 Grandma’s Gift by Eric Velasquez

📚 Hanukkah Moon by Deborah Da Costa

📚 Jackie’s Gift: A True Story of Christmas, Hanukkah, and Jackie Robinson
by Sharon Robinson

📚 Queen of the Hanukkah Dosas by Pamela Ehrenberg



the second light of hanukkah
the light of self-esteem that inspires us to believe in ourselves.

my little ray of light just might have been most geeked about learning how to use a lighter. these mudras were all him, y’all!

here i paused + cradled my heart for the devastating loss of young lives to suicide triggered by bullying. as much as i want to try to understand the unimaginable, i can hardly read beyond these headlines.

that these babies are suffering so deeply that voices of cruelty drown out voices of love is unacceptable. we must protect these babies — those who have been taught to harm + those who are the targets of harm — at all costs.


the third light of hanukkah:
the light of courage that gives us the strength to stand up for our beliefs. 

[king k + his “flamethrower,” lighting the 3rd candle last night!]

afterward, we talked about what courage looks like + read about courageous activist + Nobel Peace winner, Malala Yousafzai.

courage also looks like untethering ourselves from what no longer serves us — thoughts, values, beliefs, behaviors, practices, rituals, — particularly, if they are “inherited” or “borrowed” + not resonant with who we are or aspire to be.

#BodhicittaBookshelf
Malala: Activist for Girls’ Education by Raphaële Frier


the fourth light of hanukkah:
the light of freedom that reminds us to take responsibility for ourselves.

as we reflected on freedom, i was instantly transported back to Salus Center’s Whose Streets? workshop last saturday + heard the echoes of Dr. Koach Baruch Frazier declaring, “we have a duty to know that we are free!”

so what makes us feel free?

for my 7-year old: not having homework! 🤸🏾

for me, i told him, one of the many things that affirms my sense of freedom is being my own boss so that i can cultivate a skillful livelihood that enables me to stay aligned in Spirit while supporting others in being whole + free.

we read about Ida B. Wells who was born into slavery, emancipated as a young child, then became a celebrated journalist, crusader against lynching + a voice for justice.

#BodhicittaBookshelf
Yours for Justice, Ida B. Wells: The Daring Life of a Crusading Journalist by Philip Dray


the fifth light of hanukkah:
the light of love that enables us to care for those in need.


we celebrated love…the binding energy that defuses t(w)een-angsty squabbles + sustains sugar-fueled cousins + siblings through gramma’s holiday slumber party!


the sixth light of hanukkah:
the light of loyalty that helps us keep our promises to those who depend on us. 

[jedi vibes on this 6th night of reflection under the new moon (rosh chodesh). 🌑]

on this night we contemplated models of loyalty, dependability + trustworthiness, which include superheroes, trollhunters + dragonriders…and, in real life, parents who always got ya back!


the seventh light of hanukkah:
the light of generosity that encourages us give even when we do not receive.


we talked about the many ways we can practice generosity — like giving your cousin most of your goldfish. being patient, kind + helpful. spending time with those you care about. listening well. having a big heart. 💖


the eighth light of hanukkah:
the light of hope that leads us to a vision of a better world. 



k has thoroughly enjoyed his official role as “keeper of the flame” + surprised me by suggesting we add the buddha statue + goddess card to create this tableau.

(i’m sure his eye for #miseenscene has been influenced in some small way by all the episodes of #fixerupper he watches with his dad!)

on this very last night we celebrated hope + its connection to each of the seven virtues that came before.

hope can energize our capacity to embody + experience generosity, loyalty, love, freedom, courage, self-esteem, reason/wisdom. and each of these qualities can strengthen our hope.

The Eight Lights of Hannukah by Marilyn Rowens, Secular Humanistic Judaism

who we are | contemplating gender identity + expression

who we are,

how we embody + express

all of our identities —

namely, gender + culture —

and how we respect + support the wholeness of others in embodying + expressing their multitudes is an ongoing contemplation in our home.

Last month, we discovered Who Are You?: The Kid’s Guide to Gender Identity by Brook Pessin-Whedbee and discussed the gender spectrum and the many ways to be a “boy”/”girl”/”kid”…PERSON!
While my little person was still nesting in the womb, I held a blessing ceremony and invited all who were present to speak love, life and possibility over my child. my own prayer was for my soon-to-be human-baby-person to have a compassionate soul.

Parenting with a heart for justice, liberation and healing compels me to ensure that this compassionate soul cultivates a “liberating lexicon” rooted in the skillful understanding that we have the power to name ourselves and we will continue to resist the oppressive forces that tell us otherwise.

° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° °

📷 #2: kiddo’s self-understanding + expression:

i have a body that made adults guess “boy.”

i am a boy.

i like building, drawing, games. 

📷 #3: mommy’s self-understanding + expression:

i have a body that made adults guess “girl.”

i am a girl.

i like reading. 

📷 #4: two of the places we descend from…opening up the conversation around how we express culture and ethnicity. specifically, how does a brownskinned, black-identified, multi-cultured, multi-ethnic, multi-racial child express/embody their “white” part? (#howsway)  my child’s answer was all levels of woke: he basically named a certain dangerous political character and his behaviors, indicating my son’s awareness of how toxic “white pride” is expressed. 

children’s social justice reading group|civil protest

Oh, just learning about Civil Protest this morning:

The kiddo helped us check kids in, then later helped me lead the small discussion circle. And he came up with the words Fight For Justice for his protest sign all on his own!

📚: ¡Si, Se Puede/Yes, We Can: Janitor Strike in L.A.! by Diana Cohn

📚: Sit-In: How Four Friends Stood Up By Sitting Down by Andrea Davis Pinkey

🎞: Andrea + Brian Pinkey Introduce “Sit-In” 

family storytime | black history month

After attending the Children’s Social Justice Reading Group at East Lansing Public Library last month, I jumped at the chance to volunteer in any way to help broaden awareness about this much-needed program in the greater-Lansing community (much-needed and instantly popularthey initially anticipated 30 participants, had 150 register, and 209 attend). So I was geeked when the Youth Services Librarian contacted me a few days later to assist with a Black History Month reading for their Family Storytime.

It was such a pleasure to collaborate with Miss Eva on book selection and to share ideas about activities. In fact, I knew we were on the same page the moment she pulled out Be Boy Buzz by bell hooks from a stack of first picks. I was over the moon to get the chance to read it at storytime! It will always be one my favorites not only because it’s a celebration of black boy joy, but also for creating one of my sweetest memories of K when I read it to him years ago — inspiring my then-toddler to recite the words along with me unprompted for the very first time. Sharing this story with her, we both agreed that instead of focusing strictly on historical figures — who were either dead or old and less relatable — it was important to show black characters and real life black kids doing ordinary and extraordinary things. Simply living, enjoying time with family and friends, using their imaginations, building, playing, problem-solving, taking care of pets. Just like them. Just like their friends, classmates, and neighbors. Just like the little girl in another book on our list that I got to read: Lola at the Library! And just like brave and talented kids such as fellow Michigander Amariyanna Copeny, who wrote to President Obama about the Flint water crisis, and Robby Novak, the adorable ambassador of kindness popularly known as Kid President. Both were among the group of smart and creative kidtrepreneurs and big dreamers featured in the Who Is Your Hero? craft, which Miss Eva modeled after the Black Heritage Series stamps with blank frames for the kids to create portraits of people they admired.

Offering lessons specifically tied to Black History Month, we decided to open storytime with We March; let the kids get their wiggles out by playing the Stoplight Game, which was the ideal moment to teach them about its inventor, Garrett Morgan; and created a final interactive activity based on 28 Days: Moments in Black History that Changed the World. The latter was too text-heavy for the age group, so I suggested we invite the kids to pick a number and have their parents read about the corresponding day (check the photo gallery to see how Miss Eva set it up). For Day 29, there’s a beautiful poem that I thought tied perfectly to the question Miss Eva would ask the kids and parents to consider — a question that we hope will resound beyond this moment — What Kind of Community Do You Want to Live In?


Today

What will today bring,
what will today be,
will today be the day you make history?

Will your thoughts evolve science,
will you skill earn gold,
will your life story be
one worth being told?

Will your questions change laws,
will your words inspire others,
will your name be passed on 
by fathers and mothers?

Will the fire in your spirit
spark a revolution,
will your actions advance
humanity’s evolution?

Will others follow you into battle
to defend liberty,
will today be the day
you add to history?

Today is the day,
today is to be.


 

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Family Storytime Reading List

See what else we’re reading:
bodhicitta bookshelf | not just black history

 

Other teaching resources:
ABC Me Flashcards
Buzzfeed List of 26 Children’s Books That Celebrate Black Heroes
9 Craft Activities That Teach Preschoolers About Black History + Culture

bodhicitta bookshelf | not just black history

I chose these books well before Black History Month to help answer my observant child’s questions and expand his understanding of social justice after we’d watched and discussed the post-election episode of our favorite show black-ish (“Lemons“). Though K had been plugged into the campaign from catching clips when my husband watched the news (for my sanity I opted to read articles when I was in the headspace to manage small doses of the absurdity), he only learned of the election results when black-ish aired them in mid-January. Even though I’d explained the night before, during our beloved president’s farewell address, that Obama had less than two weeks left in the White House, it didn’t sink in that someone new would be occupying his office. When K asked if we could vote over the next 10 days to keep Obama as president,  I told him about term limits but still didn’t have the heart to announce who would be next.

So my baby, who had rallied hard for Hillary Climpton, was thoroughly shocked when No. 45 was revealed! (He had made HRC and the “other one” into LEGO figures and built a version of the White House with my niece one weekend.) That black-ish episode reflected every emotion and tension-filled conversation that my friends and I had experienced. At 6-and-half years old, K clearly understood and stated in his own words: “[That man] made the brown people and white people turn against each other.”

When the show ended, our bedtime lesson on the mistreatment of people of color began. I touched on the decimation of the Indigenous when this country was colonized by Europeans, slavery, segregation, civil rights and the current fight for justice and equity. I talked about our own family’s history, pointing out that we wouldn’t be who we are if those who came before us had not been able to marry because of their different races. That he wouldn’t be possible if those laws were still in place to prevent his dad and I from being together. I explained that those same harmful attitudes and actions are still present today and that No. 45 spewed dangerous words and ideas that encouraged bigoted people to think they were free to hurt anyone who was different from them. Worse yet, he picked more bigoted people to be on his team and together they can help make decisions that hurt everyone in our country, especially those who are not white, Christian, rich, educated and male.

I shared some hard truths about how scared and angry people are with what has been happening, pointing out that the same disagreements we watched unfold in a scene with Dre and his co-workers on black-ish were occurring in real life between friends and family members. K asked if people had known about all the mean and offensive things that had been said before they cast their vote. I explained that, sadly, those hurtful words had been stated loudly, publicly and repeatedly. Even still, people who would be considered decent, intelligent, and kind endorsed the candidate who incited so much hate.

Wanting to know how he was processing this all, I asked how he would feel if he learned that people he knew had voted for No. 45. Without hesitating, he said, “It’d break my heart.” I admitted that I felt the same way then turned the focus to how we can work to love and protect our community. (I checked in with him the next day, asking if he’d forgive them. To which he shrugged and replied, “Probs.“) As we finally settled down to sleep, I assured him that we’d keep him safe and then sang the metta-prayer I wrote for him when he was an infant with more fervor:

as the day turns into night, it’s time to send our love and light near, far and wide to everyone.
be happy. be safe. be well, have peace. good night, sleep tight, dream sweet until morning light.

I immediately picked out these books to give K a clear picture of the people who took bold and courageous risks to fight for our freedom to be treated as humans. This particularly troubling moment in our country — where the politics of the new administration are steeped in racism, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, Islamophobia, injustice and inequity — demands more than ever that we pour into our babies that which nourishes their spirits, builds their esteem, cultivates their resilience, and strengthens their love for self and heritage as well as their understanding and respect for others. Whether fictive characters or historical figures, I am committed to selecting stories for my son that feature people of various ethnicities and cultures…every single day of the year. Representation matters and the history of North America belongs to all of us and is ours to tell.

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I, Matthew Henson: Polar Explorer | Carole Boston Weatherford

Rosa | Nikki Giovanni

Malcolm Little: The Boy Who Grew Up to Become Malcolm X | Ilyasah Shabazz

The Case for Loving: The Fight for Interracial Marriage | Selina Alko

Barack Obama: Son of Promise, Child of Hope | Nikki Grimes

#madness + #motherhood: “Where are all the interracial children’s books?” – The Washington Post

This is my constant complaint as I search the shelves at the libraries and book stores. As a mother and aunt to brown children of multi-ethnic heritage, I snatch up any book that features children of diverse cultures — Asian, Latino, Black, Native — or, in lieu of being ethnic-specific, “characters of hue.” My default to balance out the predominance of white characters: animals, cars, and robots.

to tv or not to tv

In fact, just last week I explained to my not-quite-5-year-old that I had concerns about him watching a new show on nick jr. that does not have a character of color. He corrected me, pointing out that one purple-haired girl was brownish. Ha! True, she has some “tint.” But, factoring in “voice” and story context, and she skews far from an ethnic identity.

I’m an avid reader (who holds a graduate degree in media studies) who loves sharing good stories with great illustrations and age-appropriate lessons that I can build on with K. I certainly don’t avoid books without people of color; however, it is crucial that the children in my life get to see themselves reflected in a full range of stories, from the fantastic to historical. Their imaginations must be nurtured and celebrated so they may be inspired to live boldly, creatively and beautifully.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/parenting/wp/2015/01/20/where-are-all-the-interracial-childrens-books/

adventures in reading: out on a space walk

After reading about the planets in our solar system, K invited me on a space walk.
We twirled around the ottoman,
sliding by or colliding into each other, in a game of galactic bumper cars.

*to tv or not to tv: a “kiss-your-brain” moment
As I read Space Walk, K quickly made connections to what he had previously learned about the planets from an episode of Bubble Guppies. He pointed to Mars, remembering that it was too hot for the characters to visit; then to Uranus, saying it was too cold.