What is happening in our country and world right now? As I write this, I need to acknowledge the tremendous grief, anxiety, and fear that we are all feeling right now as individuals and collectively. For myself, I am feeling powerless, anger, and hopelessness as I watch Russia invade Ukraine, as we lose another black man, Amir Locke, to police violence, as Minneapolis students and residents grieve the loss of Deshaun Hill, Jr. from gun violence, as Asian Americans continue to face xenophobic acts of hate and violence across the country, as states legislate the dehumanization of LGBTQ+ bodies and the privilege and comfort of white bodies, and as attacks on the professionalism, expertise, and experiences of educators increase with vitriol and hate. So, so, so many things to grieve, fear, and be angry about.
And yet, I continue to turn towards hope. As I ask myself what justice looks like during these times, I look to Dr. Cornel West’s words, “Justice is what love looks like in public.” And I return again and again to the hope and meaning in a letter written by Sarah Bellamy, Penumbra Center for Racial Healing President, providing us with new ways to frame justice through the lens of love.
So what does justice look like in our everyday actions? We often think that we have to show up for justice in big and public ways – attending a protest or demonstration, petitioning, campaigning, boycotting, writing letters/making phone calls, posting on social media, advocating for policy and legislation. Yes, all of those things are important and necessary to create justice and social change. AND also, to quote justice facilitator, mediator, and writer, adrienne maree brown, from her book Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds, “How we are at the small scale is how we are at the large scale. (W)hat we practice at a small scale can reverberate to the largest scale” (p. 52). We can also show up for justice in small ways grounded in love, relationships, and community. Our everyday actions may be small but they contribute to the larger equity, anti-bias, justice, and belonging work at structural and systems levels.
Here are some suggestions as to how we can work towards justice on a small scale in ways that embody love so we can better see each other’s humanity. May engaging in some of these things help you cultivate hope, agency, empowerment, and resilience as you continue to engage in this hard work of creating equity and belonging for all.
- Read a story to a child to affirm their identity or to foster understanding of an identity of someone who is different from them
- Interrupt bias-based comments (microaggressions) with a question to invite learning, growth, and conversation
- Engage with strangers in culturally appropriate ways (eye contact, nod, smile, show deference, etc.)
- Check in on your neighbors
- If you are able, shovel your sidewalk and keep it free of ice to keep access to the community open for all. Offer to help a neighbor who may need it with theirs.
- Tip service industry workers generously and thank them for their service
- Introduce yourself with your pronouns and invite others to share theirs with you if they choose
- Default to using they/them/theirs when you don’t know a person’s gender identity
- Ask questions instead of assuming answers AND be aware of how your curiosity about others may serve to further “other” people who are different from you
- Make it a point to learn how to correctly spell and pronounce someone’s name when you meet them and continue to be mindful of this.
- Support BIPOC-owned, women-owned, and LGBTQ+-owned businesses in your area.
- Practice empathy by thanking someone for sharing a difficult experience or something hard and acknowledge their vulnerability.
With gratitude for Anti-Bias Educators everywhere,
Rebecca Slaby, AMAZEworks Executive Director
Just Ask: Be Different, Be Brave, Be You
Written by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Illustrated by Rafael López
Why we love this book: This book was written by the first Supreme Court Justice who is a woman of color, and it highlights lived experiences around disability. Justice Sotomayor emphasizes the theme of noticing and honoring the strengths each child brings along without shying away from talking about our differences and asking questions about things we don’t understand.
Why we love this lesson: It is important that young people don’t feel like they must take on the world in order to make change because that can feel overwhelming and disempowering. This lesson invites intentional awareness and self-reflection so children can begin to recognize their spheres of influence, no matter how big or small they may seem, which can foster resilience and courage to continue working toward justice.
AMAZEworks is thrilled to welcome Thuba Nguyễn to our Board of Directors. She is an Early Childhood Education Specialist currently serving as the Workforce Curriculum Coordinator at Child Care Aware of Minnesota. In this role, she works closely with the Department of Human Services to oversee their 300+ course curriculum using an DEI approach for adult instructional design. She is fueled with passion and dedication to address the inequitable access disenfranchised children have to early childhood education, denounce the patriarchal constructs of education, foster productive adult learning environments, and advocate for the rights of early educators, care providers, and families living in socioeconomic disparities. AMAZEworks is honored to have Thuba’s insight, expertise and knowledge as a leader and champion for the field of early education, representing the progressive movement of anti-bias and anti-racist curriculum in our educational systems, leading us into the next season of our story. Welcome, Thuba!
AMAZEworks Ethos in Action:
A Practice for Cultivating Your Anti-Bias Mindset, Skills, & Tools
“Relationships are built at the speed of trust. Social change happens at the speed of relationships.” ~Rev. Jennifer Bailey
In Charles Feltman’s book, The Thin Book of Trust, he defines trust as “choosing to risk making something you value vulnerable to another person’s actions.” He names the four components of trust as care, sincerity, reliability, and competence. Below, we have highlighted some AMAZEworks brave conversation guidelines and shared the Youth-Adult Co-Creation Framework from The Reinvention Lab to support trust-building in your communities. A commitment to building trust is a commitment to building justice.
Brave Conversation Guidelines
- Yes/and, both/and:
We live in a binary world where we see things as right or wrong, good or bad. Our humanity is much more complex than that, and engaging with this complexity is where we encounter growth. Trust is not all or nothing. Trust can be violated and rebuilt. Recognizing this and accepting the vulnerability that comes along with it is how we encounter growth and commit to our relationships and communities.
- Call in, not call out:
How can we call each other to more truth and love? How can we center the relationship and be brave enough to stay engaged by calling each other in instead of calling out in ways that invoke shame and blame? Shaming and blaming each other shut down conversation and reflection. Trust must allow space for growth and learning.
- Speak your truth, but hold my heart:
There is an impact and a consequence to speaking “truths,” opinions, or perspectives that may be hurtful or dehumanizing to someone else, especially when we are trying to be in relationship with each other. How can we remember to hold each other’s hearts when we are sharing our ideas and perspectives?
- Take ownership of the impact of your words, regardless of intention:
When we center the relationship with each other, we must own our impact when we say or do something that is hurtful or marginalizing to or about someone else. We will make mistakes, and we will cause harm. How do we then transition into a state of learning and repair?
- This framework from The Reinvention Lab emphasizes the importance of involving young people in decision-making about their education journey. As students, young people are directly impacted by decisions made in education, and they have an important perspective that should be shared in decision-making spaces.
Resources for Educators and Caregivers
- The Calm Room – Ramsey County Children’s Mental Health Collaborative
- Social Emotional Learning and Self-Care in Early Childhood – NYC Department of Education
- Creative Ways to Teach Breathing Practices to Young Learners – Edutopia
- Resilience Impact Self-Care for Resilience Exercise – The Clay Center for Young Health Minds
Affirming LGBTQ+ Identities
- Supporting Children with Gay and Lesbian Family Members, Ages 3-12 – AMAZEworks Book Lessons for Caregivers and Educators
- Understanding Gender Diversity, Ages 3-12 – AMAZEworks Book Lessons for Caregivers and Educators
- 5 Ways You Can Support Your Child Who Is Exploring Their Gender or Sexual Identity – Parents
Women’s History Month
- A More Complete Women’s History – Learning for Justice
- When Feminism is White Supremacy in Heels – Harper’s Bazaar
- Women’s Suffrage, Racism, and Intersectionality – ADL
- We’re Here Too: Transgender Visibility During Women’s History Month – GOLIN
Navigating Conversations about Race and Racism
- Navigating Difficult Conversations With Children And Youth On Race, Racism, And Discrimination, Ages 3-12 – AMAZEworks Book Lessons for Caregivers and Educators
- Navigating Difficult Conversations With Children And Youth On Race, Racism, And Discrimination, Ages 11 and up – AMAZEworks Book Lessons for Caregivers and Educators
- Black Lives Matter Lesson – AMAZEworks
- Let’s Talk – Learning for Justice
Understanding Racial Trauma, the Deaths of Locke, Floyd, and Arbery, and the Trials that Follow
- Teaching for Black Lives – Rethinking Schools
- Healing the Hidden Wounds of Racial Trauma – Kenneth V. Hardy
- Resources For Talking About Race, Racism And Racialized Violence With Kids – Center for Racial Justice Education
- Helping Youth after Community Trauma: Tips for Educators – NCTSN
- Helping Children and Adolescents Cope with Disasters and Other Traumatic Events – NIMH
- What To Say To Kids When The News Is Scary – NPR
- Resources to Help Educators, Adults Respond to Racism, Violence and Trauma webpage
- Prioritize Mental Black Mental Health and Self-Care – Learning for Justice
Books for Young People
- Raising Antiracist Children, written by Britt Hawthorne and Natasha Yglesias
- This Book is Anti-Racist, written by Tiffany Jewell, illustrated by Aurélia Durand
- We Rise, We Resist, We Raise our Voices, edited by Wade Hudson and Cheryl Willis Hudson
- Things That Make White People Uncomfortable, written by Dave Zirin
- We Are the Change: Words of Inspiration from Civil Rights Leaders, introduction by Harry Belafonte
- Children in our World Racism and Intolerance, written by Louise A. Spilsbury, illustrated Hanane Kai
- Story Time w/ Kayla – Read aloud of Ibram X. Kendi’s Antiracist Baby that can be a resource for elementary-aged children.