Check out this archived EmbraceRace Community Conversation with leaders of IntergrateNYC4Me. In New York City, home to among the most segregated schools in the country, IntegrateNYC4Me, this student-led effort, is pushing back hard against educational segregation and the inequities it represents in their city and across the country. Find out how, why, and what difference its made so far – both to the cause and to the student leaders themselves.
EmbraceRace's Andrew and Melissa facilitate a community conversation with IntegrateNYC4Me co-founder Sarah Camiscoli and with student leaders Matt Diaz and Hebh Jamal. An edited transcript and more resources follow.
I have a friend who works at an elite private school here in SF. We talk a lot about race and children and talking to kids about race. As a White person, she is doing her best to make sure the children she educates are aware of the impact of race in their lives, especially as most of the children she teaches are White children.
She told us about a recent episode that happened at school. As part of an after school activity with a group of 3rd graders, kids were asked to describe their skin color. She told me the list of colors went something like this:
Peach, Peach, Tan, Chicken(!), Peach, Tan
Gardening with my 9-year-old daughter has become a tradition, one that she and I both look forward to at the dawn of new springs. Urban gardening is a tradition I borrowed from my African American, Mississippi-born grandma. There is an excitement I get at the chance to dig in the soil with my daughter and nurture a plant that will give us both nourishment, the fruits of our labor. My daughter, a self-proclaimed “meat-a-tarian,” will set aside her picky eating habits to try the vegetables she has planted; she enjoys and takes pride partaking in something she watered and set in the dirt months prior. I, too, have found empowerment in the sowing and reaping seasons.
What a white boy taught this black woman about resistance
Our homeschool coop tried a version of the blue eyes/brown eyes exercise in the 6- to 10-year-olds’ history class. I knew it would be interesting, so I settled in to watch, not guessing how much I would learn.
The two parent teachers had cookies, but only the brown-eyed children were allowed to have them. The blue-eyed children sat empty-handed while the brown-eyed children enjoyed their cookies. Most of the blue-eyed children waited patiently, with hurt and confusion evident on their faces.
How to involve kids in direct activism
When my son was four he saw me at the kitchen table with giant markers and poster board. He knew what that meant, and his interest was piqued. “Are we going to a rally, or a vigil?” He asked. I asked him what he thought the difference was and he responded; “I don’t know. They feel different.”
At four he already knew what activism felt like and, though he didn’t have all the words to describe his experiences, he knew how to ask the right questions. At 41 I am in much the same place.
In our society there are idols and heroes who we look up to, and they influence our lives every day whether or not we are conscious of their impact.
We often are taught that these people are perfect, but when we take a closer look we find astonishing information that changes the way we see them. For instance, there are towns whose names pay tribute to Lord Jeffrey Amherst, who in the eyes of many was an intelligent and resourceful war hero.
The truth however is that he was a cruel man who distributed blankets containing smallpox to the Indigenous people that were living in the area, thus massacring this group of people. Lord Jeffrey Amherst is not the only “hero” people look up to without knowing the true nature of their deeds.
Christopher Columbus is one of these heroes. He has been idolized by the general public, making him out to be a heroic explorer that discovered America. Similar to Lord Jeffery Amherst, when we look deeper into Columbus’ story we learn new truths.
An interview with my 11-year-old son.
Ever wonder what a young activist sounds like? Before I was a parent I would have said that activists are raised, not born. My 11-year-old son makes me think that maybe it’s a little bit of both. I sat down to talk with him about it.
Me: What do you think makes someone an activist?
Son: I think that what makes someone an activist is that they have strong ideas and they put those ideas into actions.
Me: Why do some people choose to be activists?
Son: I choose to be an activist because if no one was, then the world would not be the way we want.
.On the day my family and I met with several other families to celebrate EmbraceRace, I posted photos from the day on my Facebook page. The pictures were of multiracial children and families, enjoying one another’s company.
Kids blurred by the speed of their running. Kids posing, their chests puffed with confidence. Kids being kids and parents capturing the beauty of their play. The Facebook post was “liked” dozens of times. The comment section was filled with ALL CAPS and exclamation points. And why not? Those kids are beautiful in every way.