In 1943 in Manhattan, NY, a 46-year old African- and Native-American man who was a renowned band director and jazz composer marries a 19-year old naive European-American woman of Jewish Ukrainian descent, who wants to sing professionally. I’m the second of five children.
At age four, I overhear Mommy telling her Mom she won’t leave Daddy and me in order to come back home with my whiter looking brother. Every year of our growing up, Mommy takes the whitest looking child to find new housing, and our unwanted family moves in the middle of the night. We’re in new schools, too.
The Conversation: A growing number of children across the U.S. and Canada born to Indigenous parents are not being enrolled as “tribal members” because they are not eligible under blood quantum requirements, generally defined as the share of their ancestors documented as full-blood Natives. Lacking the documentation of their membership in a state or federally recognized Indian tribe, this generation of “Paperless Indians” are also not eligible for a wide range of tribal government services – from health care, housing, and jobs to hunting and fishing rights, religious protections and much more. Widespread non-enrollment of Indigenous children contributes to a widespread identity crisis among native youth, among whom suicide is the leading cause of death, and raises the question of whether independent, sovereign Indigenous nations will survive into the next seven generations or be completely dissolved and assimilated into American society.
Thanks to Souta Calling Last and Tyler Walls of Indigenous Vision for joining the EmbraceRace community for this conversation. In addition to watching the video and reading the lightly edited (for understanding) transcript, you should also checkout their tip sheet - Building inclusive communities and strong Indigenous youth - which outlines steps you can take to support Indigenous youth and tribes today. Other resources and bios also follow.
Watch EmbraceRace's conversation with a mom and son pair who, respectively, cofounded and is an alum of the Los Angeles based group Kids 4 Freedom & Justice, created to be a "space for kids of color of all genders to learn and share practices of liberation, wholeness and foster their fierceness in a cohort of their peers." Co-founder Kim Tabari and her son, Azaan, a K4FJ alum, join the EmbraceRace community to share their insights about the opportunities and challenges of preparing youth of color to be changemakers in a world that often works to limit their possibilities.
The lightly edited transcript of their conversation follows.
How do you choose children’s books about Native peoples? Because most of us were socialized and educated to think of Native peoples in narrow and biased ways, we typically don't recognize how deeply flawed many of the books we choose are. Too many children's books present Native peoples exclusively as historical figures, for example, ignoring the presence and realities of the 500+ federally recognized Native Nations in the United States today. Too many present American Indians as "people of color," which they may or may not be, dismissing their defining attribute as people of sovereign nations. Watch this Talking Kids and Race conversation with special guest, American Indians in Children's Literature founder Dr. Debbie Reese. Andrew and Melissa of EmbraceRace interview Debbie and then she takes questions from EmbraceRacers in attendance. Dr. Reese offers an opportunity to move beyond what you've been taught to a place where you're able to identify great books about Native peoples, the original people of the lands currently known as the United States of America.
Find the transcript (lightly edited for length and understanding), related resources and more about Debbie Reese below. Don't forget to check out about past and upcoming monthly Talking Race & Kids online conversations, too.
On April 23rd, EmbraceRacers gathered online for our first-ever Talking Race & Kids Open Forum. Hosts and EmbraceRace co-founders, Melissa Giraud and Andrew Grant-Thomas, shared what they’re seeing and experiencing on the frontlines of race and raising kids and invited participants (you!) to do the same. Hear those stories, insights, triumphs, disappointments and more in this hour-long video. See an edited transcript below followed by resources.
Andrew Grant-Thomas: Welcome folks. Really glad you're here and I'm excited about this. We’ve been doing these webinars for over two years now, and this is the first time we're really talking with each other and with you to the extent that we hope to do it today. So, this is the way it'll go.
We are going to start out by talking a little bit about the road we've traveled so far. It's been three years – we started EmbraceRace in earnest in April of 2016. So, we thought this would be a good time to take stock, reflect a little bit, tell you where we've come from and maybe a little bit about where we are going.
Caregivers, educators, coaches, extended family members and other adults in young people’s lives have opportunities to have meaningful conversations with young people every day – conversations that can help young people process their emotions, understand their experiences and the world around them, receive validation and perspective, build a sense of identity, and connect with a sense of purpose. But how many of us really see ourselves as “mentors” to the young people in our lives? And how can mentoring relationships of all kinds directly address the impacts of race, class, gender, sexuality and other factors on young people’s identities and experiences?
On this episode of Talking Race & Kids, Andrew and Melissa of EmbraceRace spoke with Dudney Sylla, program manager at Mentor: The National Mentoring Partnership, and with Dr. Torie Weiston-Serdan, the author of Critical Mentoring, and the Founder and Executive Director of the Youth Mentoring Action Network, as well as engaging comments and questions from the EmbraceRace community. Watch the video. Find the edited transcript of this episode below, followed by amazing related resources, and then by our special guests' bios.
As a child of Indian immigrants growing up in white suburban Connecticut, I was the only brown kid in school for most of my early childhood. Constant race-based microaggressions and straight-up bullying in elementary school taught me that my Indian identity brought ridicule and shame at the hands of my white peers. No one could pronounce my name, and both kids and teachers found humor in butchering it. We had statues of Hindu deities in our home, I knew no Bible stories, and I had never been skiing. Our kitchen at home “smelled weird”. Some of my friends’ mothers remarked that they had never had an Indian kid at their house.
My mother had this funny habit of always pointing out every other Indian-appearing child in any public place - “Look! There’s another Indian girl! Go and say hello to her; maybe you’ll make friends?” When I was a young child, I found it perplexing and didn’t understand why I would have anything in common with a random girl across the room. I would reply to my mother, “Just because she’s Indian doesn’t mean that we actually have anything in common!”
Last year for Black History Month, Georgia art teacher Kymm Daniels celebrated by creating a crafty homage to black hair on the doors to her classroom. When her students walked in, she recounts, they asked her: "'Miss Daniels, who are they?' I was like, ‘They are you, or you, they could be anybody.’ It’s something that relates to them, and they just love it.”
Her students weren't the only ones to love it. Daniels posted pictures and a video of her creations on social media and they quickly went super viral. On Facebook, her video had over 3 million views and her overall post has 75K shares and counting.
So often, when we at EmbraceRace introduce our work to someone new, the response includes something along the lines of, "Wonderful! I'd love help knowing how to talk to my kids about race!" However, the truth is that what adult caregivers say explicitly to children about race, when we say anything at all, forms only a small part of what children learn about race.
In this Talking Race & Kids video, we take a close look at the childhood landscape of racial learning. Beyond what we say to them explicitly, what other factors shape what our children learn about race? How do differences in racial and class identities shape the ways children learn and are taught about race? Maggie and Erin share their research then Andrew and Melissa of EmbraceRace take questions and comments from the EmbraceRace community (you!). The transcript of this conversation follows. Further down you'll find the Community Q&A, then related resources and lastly guest bios.
“Ammi, How many suitcases will we need to pack our home?”
I looked quizzically at my son thinking this was another of his oddball questions or that he had inadvertently let slip his plan to run away from home. “Don’t we have to leave now that Trump is President?” His question seared right through the protective barrier that I thought I had encased around my innocent seven-year-old. I was stunned and it took me a while to formulate a response and reassure him that the U.S. is our home and we are not going anywhere. When I spoke about this incident with other parents, a hush fell on the group and then slowly their own stories tumbled out. Each of them recounted words thrown like barbs either at themselves or their children - terrorist, ISIS, "towel-head," do you have a bomb in your backpack?