Why Selma Matters: A Mother’s Perspective
By Stephanie Shonekan, Art, Music, and Pop Culture
On MLK day, I took our three teenage children to watch Selma. I worried about the film’s effect on them because I knew it would provide another heavy layer of heart-wrenching historical information for them to carry, which makes their walk more labored than their non-black counterparts in the USA. I hoped that the experience would be beneficial, if for no other reason, to flesh out their historical knowledge, and to show them the rare occurrence of a major feature film directed by a black woman. But most of all, I hoped it would raise their awareness and enhance their sense of identity. This was a risky endeavor because most of their friends spent the holiday watching popular action and horror films. But it was important to me that my children spend the time on this particular film at this particular time.
The tragic murders of Mike Brown, Eric Garner, and Tamir Rice set the stage for my three children to experience Selma. Within the last year, our family discussions about race in America have been more urgent because of the tangible visual evidence, thanks to smart phone cameras and footage, that racial history continues to evolve and that it impacts us in a real way right now. Our frequent conversations about race are complicated because our children’s understandings of blackness are shaped by the different constructions of blackness within their family. Continue reading →
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To Translate Humanity: Remembering Gaza and the Summer of 2014
By Hadeel Assali
The summer of 2014. Children were appearing en masse at the US/Mexico border, the news was abuzz about a passenger jet crash in the Ukraine, and once again, Gaza was under attack, filling many TV screens and social media feeds with images of mangled nameless Palestinian bodies. But like the previous seemingly endless stream of bombardments of Gaza – in 2012, in 2009, in 2008, in 2006 – it fell quickly out of the media spotlight and will most likely be melded into a general history of dehumanizing violence for which no state powers or international organizations will be held accountable. It’s sad to say, but the general public’s image of Gaza, and perhaps of Palestine in general, is one of conflict and violence, of dead bodies and terrorists, of hopelessness and despair. And it seems to me that this “imagined Palestinian” is part of what keeps us fixed firmly in a place of continuous dispossession.
One day in July of that summer, my cousin in Gaza City sent me an audio recording of a journalist in crisis in the Shuja’iyah neighborhood. The journalist was witnessing the massacre of Palestinians by Israeli airstrikes and was begging for someone to help, to send the message out to the world. He described “blood running like water in the streets,” listed the name of families that needed assistance, and demanded to know why the Red Cross stopped answering their phones. He repeated the family names of the victims, and despairingly implored fellow Palestinians to show the humanity of the people of Gaza. My cousin sent me the recording as the height of the massacre was happening, asking me to do whatever I could, anything to help news of the current crisis travel beyond the boundaries of the Gaza Strip and beyond the Arabic speaking worlds. I reacted as quickly as I could and several friends and family members came together to help me with quickly translating the recording from Arabic into English.
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On Being Bad and the School-to-Prison Pipeline: A Conversation with Author Crystal Laura
By Bill Ayers
Bill Ayers has written several books on education, including Teaching Toward Freedom and A Kind and Just Parent: The Children of Juvenile Court.
In Being Bad: My Baby Brother and the School-to-Prison Pipeline, Crystal Laura’s riveting account of her younger brother’s odyssey through school and detention and prison—a brutal journey that often feels meticulously designed to entangle and ensnare him—she makes an eloquent and urgent argument that schools can only succeed with all our children when they are built on a foundation of “love, justice, and joy,” a pursuit she describes as “dangerous and worthwhile.” Laura’s case for vigorous and vital schools, and against the prison nation, is also a brief for a healthier society.
I asked Crystal Laura about the interaction and meaning of these matters, and the question of what is to be done.
Being Bad stands at the juncture of several critical conversations: school improvement and urban school change, adolescent identity and the plight of Black boys in America, criminal justice, and the immense prison nation that has become a defining characteristic of our national life. What do you hope to contribute to these dynamic dialogues with this book?
The way I see it, many of the most important conversations about these huge, crashing issues are happening in separate learning environments—either among researchers in scholarly spaces or families and communities in activist circles—and the primary barrier between them is language. We are often talking amongst ourselves and working for justice in silos. Continue reading →
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