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.
EmbraceRace: The vision you and your cofounders had with Kids 4 Freedom & Justice was to create 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." Kim, we'll start with you. What do we need to know about this effort?
Kim Tabari: Hi everyone. Thanks for having us on.
We really worked hard to make that language kid-friendly and to make it something that the kids can really connect to. We we really wanted them to embody all the elements of the purpose statement.
Kids 4 Freedom really came about very organically from parents that were all doing social justice work, are all social justice warriors. And we wanted to just create a safer and better world for our kids and give them the experience that we didn't have as kids ourselves, right. And so wanting them to know more about their history, building community with one another, obviously fostering good leadership skills and being able to volunteer at local organizations and so forth. So it really grew out of the need for us wanting more for our kids than we saw that was available. And so the group is primarily led by mentors who inspire the kids with love, emotional connection, and commitment to the movement.
EmbraceRace: A couple other of the basics. How long have you been around? How many kids? How many adults?
Kim Tabari: We're in our second cohort right now. We started with the first cohort, 2017-2018 with about 12 kids from the ages of 9 to 11. Azaan was 11 at the time. And we also had 3 youth mentors that were I think 14, 15, and 20 as well. And they would come and help out with the kids if we put them in small groups and develop their own leadership skills as young mentors. So that was a really amazing start.
And it was pretty much just this practice of working really hard, being very intentional on the curriculum planning, lots of Google Hangouts with the parents. I believe it was a group of maybe 9 or 10 of us if I'm not mistaken that really came together initially. And then I think a solid maybe 7 or 8 like stuck through the whole process. People, you know, had busy lives and children, you know, jobs. So we did a lot of 9 p.m. meetings on Google Hangouts or Saturday morning conversations.
That was the hardest part - just finding the space and the time for all of us to meet together to plan out what we wanted to see for the year, because we really wanted to go in with as much written down as we could. We wanted to have a pretty good plan going in so that kids wouldn't feel any amount of chaos when they started the program. We wanted it to be seamless for them as well. So yeah we started with a cohort of 12 kids in 2017-2018. And we have about the same amount of kids now, right?
Azaan Maybe 14 kids.
Kim Tabari Maybe 14 kids this cohort. This is the second cohort and, you know, he's 12 and he's turning 13. And so we stop at 12 for the group. The kid's ages are 8 to 12. And so he will age out of the program and probably be a mentor next year or something else we haven't quite figured out yet. But this is his second and final year in the program.
EmbraceRace: And so Azaan, how would, if you're telling a friend or someone who doesn't know anything about the group, a kid. How do you tell them about it? How do you describe it?
Azaan: Like, it's life changing. You learn different things that you didn't know. Like for example learning about Black Lives Matter (BLM) and doing things like that. You'll have, most of the time, some fun but some parts are like serious and they're telling you good facts so you know about stuff. Like most of the kids, no I think all of the kids in the group, I didn't know who they were. But now that I'm in the group, I'm good friends with them and we have play dates and things like that. And yeah, I would recommend it to like any of my friends to come and join Kids 4 Freedom & Justice.
Kim Tabari: One of the things that we were very intentional about was creating a space that was multi-ethnic. You've got Black kids, Latino kids, Asian kids. So there's a really good mix of children. So folks are getting a really really good experience with all different cultures. Folks are from Mexico or from Central America ... so you're getting the experience of like what it's like to grow up in their households, what their foods are. So they have really good conversations about each other's lives. I think that was something that we're really proud of.
EmbraceRace It's also very gender inclusive, right? With girls and gender expansive folks.
Kim Tabari Mhm. Mhm.
EmbraceRace And I know that one of the most famous well known of these sort of youth groups around social justice work is the Radical Monarchs.
Kim Tabari Yes.
EmbraceRace I know that you were aware of them when you were setting up this program. But you chose to make this gender inclusive, whereas Radical Monarchs is only for girls. Say a little bit both about that choice and then about what it feels like for you, Azaan to be in that space?
Kim Tabari Well a couple of members on our planning committee were friends with the Radical Monarch members. And so the idea was to talk with them and figure out could we do something similar in L.A., because they are in Oakland. And so can we do something similar to Radical Monarchs? We knew very early on that we wanted it to be gender inclusive. We didn't want it to just be a space or boys, or just be a space for girls. Sort of like duplicating the Girl Scout / Boy Scout scenario. We didn't want that, right. So really again going into it with these intentions of like, you know, breaking the binary of either or and having both genders, or kids that are identifying early as trans, or whomever. That was one of the things that was key for us.
So we spent a lot of time talking with the Radical Monarchs and some of their challenges, some of their successes. So I think we had a lot of good learnings from them early on and that helped fuel us a lot in the direction of what to do and what not to do. I even went down to Oakland one weekend. They were doing a training for folks that were interested in creating similar organizations across the country. And so there were folks from all over that showed up for a day training. So yeah, they were very much involved at the beginning.
Azaan: I like how they're all different ages of people that are in Kids 4 Freedom & Justice. And they all know different things and share different things about their experiences. And I like how girls will share things that they know. Boys will explain things they know and, most of the time, we're all including each other in any activity that we're doing. Like playing tag at lunch or whatever, playing tag or hide and go seek. We'll all play. Not just like the boys play and the girls play.
EmbraceRace Yeah. You must have been a bit of an elder in the group, right? How young are kids?
Kim Tabari 8? I think Sophia's 8?
EmbraceRace: So there must have been people at different places in terms of all sorts of things- understanding or what they like to do. How did that work for you, Azaan?
Azaan: Well most of the time, I'm trying to be at a certain standard where like you can't do certain things but still have fun with the younger kids. And it's no different. I don't treat them any different from the older kids that are my age, or like a year younger than me. I treat them the same when working in different groups.
Kim Tabari: He's being very modest. They love Azaan, the younger kids. He's like the big brother you know. He gets along really well with the younger kids. He's very very patient and empathetic. And, you know, making sure that their voices are part of the conversation when they're having a conversation. There might be some older folks that might be taking up a lot of space, you know, he'll make sure to invite the voices of the younger kids in the group as well. And sometimes we might split off into 2 smaller groups depending on the topic that we're talking about, the badge we're working on or something. And so we might have smaller groups.
But Azaan is really, really good with the younger kids. They just love him. They're like, "Where's Azaan?" When I show up, they're like, "Where's Azaan? Where's Azaan?" So yeah it was important for us to pick an age range that was appropriate, and we thought that 8 to 12 was really a good span right. Because, you know, they were starting to learn so much at 8 years old and you know, coming into themselves at 11 and 12 which is right at the edge of not really wanting to play with 8-year old’s so much. But building community and being in conversation and feeling like, you know, you'll be the older one of the group and kids are looking up to you. So that's where they are starting to develop leadership skills, mentorship skills and that sort of thing. So, it was important for us to have that age range. I don't think we could have gone younger and I don't think we could have gotten older. I think 8 to 12 is a really perfect age range. Yeah.
EmbraceRace: And Azaan, I'm just curious, what's it like to do this with your mom?
Kim Tabari: *laughs* That's a good pregnant pause.
Azaan: Well it's nice for things that I don't understand and I'm not sure, or exactly sure how to ask that question. She's open to explaining whatever topic.
Kim Tabari Aww. That's so sweet.
In the first cohort, I was the freedom guide the first year. We just sort of wanted to jump in and get it off the ground and were researching freedom guides we just weren't able to find someone that we could give a stipend to. We didn't have a lot of money as an organization. And so myself and another team leader, Carla, stepped in and we were co-freedom guides together.
I think that was a challenge for Azaan because it's almost like having your mom as a teacher and so I tried to really step out of that role and really let him engage in the class but it was, I think that was a little bit of a challenge for him to not like want his mom to be his teacher right. So, I think his experiences in the second cohort this year, we have a freedom guide that's a Youth Development Organizer and he's having a great experience learning from her and engaging this year. So, he's had this ability of like having 2 different freedom guides and one being me. So, I think it's been a good experience for him either way.
EmbraceRace Right. And then how, if we can get more into sort of the nitty gritty of what happens when you get together? Like how often do you get together, or try to?
Kim Tabari Yeah. And so a little bit about the structure. So right at the beginning, we wanted it to be very kid-centered. So, when we sent out the recruitment emails or calls to friends, the friends that we know, different circles, different ethnic groups. We had an orientation or an info session, we had two separate rooms. One for the parents and one for the kids. Two separate agendas. And we went over what the program was for both kids and parents.
And so we wanted them to have ownership. We didn't want it to be, "Your mom wants you to go to this." Right. We wanted for them to say, "These are some of the things we're going to be doing. Here's what we're gonna be learning. Here's the badges we're going be earning. These are some of the activities we might do. Does this sound interesting to you? Does this sound like you might want to be in this community?"
It is on a Sunday once or twice a month so you might have to get up early on Sunday. I know it's not a thing that kids want to do on Sunday. But we really gave them [the kids] the opportunity to have a voice right at the beginning and I think that's one of the things that a lot of times I see programs created. But they're created for kids and there are no kids involved, right in the process, in the planning and so forth. So, it was very important for us to do that.
And so we met for that first year we met one Sunday a month from 9 to 12. And we did, you know, like a pretty tight curriculum lesson plan that Carla and I put together, but of course leaving room for things to shift and change with kids. So, adding like hands on activities, circle time, reflection time, coloring time, drawing time. Anything that would really bring out their wisdom as children. So that was one of the things that was important for them to like really understand some of the context behind global solidarity or Black Lives Matter, some of these hard subjects.
So, we did that in-house and then we paired with an action that we took them on field trips with their parents to. So, we even went to an immigration rights march, for the healing justice badge, for example, we went to visit the Earth Lodge in Long Beach which is a center, a community space that started by Queen. And she facilitates healing and cleansing ceremonies, like a fire ceremony or a full moon ceremony. And they actually got to experience a fire ceremony, where they wrote down what was challenging for them, a thing that was hard for them. They wrote it on a piece of paper and then they crushed it up and then they threw into the fire and then they took from the fire things that they wanted. And that was just such a beautiful experience to witness these kids like putting like, you know, frustration and anger and sadness on these words into the fire that they wrote on their paper and then talking about that experience.
We did that but also pairing it with conversations around what is Healing Justice? Why is it important? What are some ways we take care of ourselves? What do you do when you get mad? How do you make yourself feel better? Right. So, in language that they also understood.
The structure is pairing some of the everyday knowledge with some hands-on activity. And so one of the things they recently did is they went on a hike around Mother Nature and so they were learning about different flowers and different things and then they made essential oils for energy and calming and different things. And they got to smell it and choose the oil and put it in a bottle and, you know, Azaan loves essential oils. He's like the kid that loves essential oils. *laughs* He's always spritzing himself. We didn't want it to feel like school. So, the learning was really, in order to understand the action that we were going to be doing out in the community. So that was really important to us. It's a similar model that the Radical Monarchs have as well. So, it wasn't something that we came up with on our own.
EmbraceRace: Let me ask about that Kim and Azaan. So, some things borrowed from Radical Monarchs. Clearly not everything, even on the gender piece. I'm wondering, what guides you at a high level that allows you to say, "Yeah this makes sense for our curriculum. This doesn't make sense for a curriculum?"
Kim Tabari: Team agreements. you know. We all came together and decided what were the 5 things that we really wanted them to know and what was happening in the world right now. So, we know that immigration is a big deal in California. So, we wanted to talk about global solidarity and include pieces around immigration. We have a lot of immigrant families in the room. So, we were both connecting what was going on in the world and some of the things that we wanted, we valued and wanted our kids to learn about. So just process of elimination with the group was really easy to figure out like, these are the top 6 badges that we want to teach the kids this year and if we can't get to all 6 of them then we will eliminate whatever we need to. But it was just a matter of agreeing on what was most important. But yeah definitely, I think when we started this, immigration and a lot of violence against Black and Brown folks. So, we wanted to make sure we did some Black Lives Matter education. We wanted to give Healing Justice education as well so that they know how to deal because there were all these shootings at schools and so much happening, so we were really pairing it was what was happening in the world.
EmbraceRace: And Azaan, what were your favorite kind of activities or pairings or badges?
Azaan: My favorite badge last year was probably the Black Lives Matter badge because I know a lot of stuff about Black Lives Matter. But some things that they taught me that I didn't know about it were really like shocking to me. Like finding out how, why they made Black Lives Matter and who exactly made Black Lives Matter and different things like that really opened my eyes to different things Black Lives Matter did.
EmbraceRace: So I'm going to put you on the spot a little bit, Azaan. Can you tell us a piece of that?
Azaan: Oh so they were telling us about how they made Black Lives Matter because people, different Black males were being shot and killed in different towns and like different police officers weren't going to jail and different things like that. So, they put Black Lives Matter together so they can protest how it's not right that you can just go and kill people without going to prison.
EmbraceRace Yeah. So that's obviously is a heavy issue. Right. It's very real and it's very heavy. There's been a lot of talk in light of all the police shootings especially of unarmed Black and Brown people, men and women, but especially men, and about how a lot of Black families have, as they say, "The Talk," right.
EmbraceRace: Especially if they're boys and we're gonna sit down to talk about how to manage encounters with the police. And even though there are a lot of people, not necessarily Black people, but a lot of people, a lot of parents who worry about or who are reluctant to share, to have these hard conversations about things that happen in the world and even at age 11, you know, there are some people who would say that you are too young right, or that their 11 year old is too young. I just wondered if either of you has any thoughts, and obviously we don't think that because of your work, but what would either of you say to those people who say, "Gosh! 11 is too young. They can find out about that later?"
Azaan: Well I feel like maybe if you're like 5 or something, you wouldn't talk about that. But an age that they can comprehend what you're talking about, there's no really "young age" to talk about that matter because it can happen any day, any time. And to know what you should do, like not to run or anything, what to do if something like that happens. I don't think there's an age to talk about that.
EmbraceRace: Are there sort of favorite activities from your perspective, maybe for the parents or that you've gotten a lot of feedback from kids, another favorite?
Kim Tabari: Well I think one of the favorites that I can remember was the global solidarity conversation. That ended up lasting for 2 months because the kids were so engaged. They had so many questions around citizenship and how do people get citizenship? And can people have dual citizenships? And they wanted to know was there a test? So, we brought in the tests for them to look at. So, we spent a lot of time really talking about what citizenship and what nativity means for folks in this country and that was huge. That was very, very important to them.
And then we tagged that with the action of going to an immigrant's rights march in Boyle Heights in L.A. And then we gave the kids clipboards and they went around and talked to people, their parents were there of course, and they went around and talked to people around like, "Why were you at this march?" "What does immigration mean to you? Why is this important to you?” So, they did their own research on like, you know, what are the needs are for folks that are in immigrant communities. And I think that was one of our very first actions. And there were so so amazing. They just they came back really excited and we just talked about what they learned. Yeah, I remember that one being really, really powerful. Especially the fact that they have their clipboards and they were interviewing just random people in the crowd.
And then the fire ceremony, I think was really good because it's fire. *laughs* Who doesn't like to play with fire? Who doesn't like to toss things into a fire, you know? And I think we also taught them different ways of taking care of themselves. So, yoga poses, like child's pose and so forth. And then I played a part of a somatic training for them, so I put on somatic podcasts so they can kind of find their center and feel their bellies and, you know, just different things that they could use. Some kids like some things and others didn't, right. So, we showed them a little bit. Any other things that were like favorites? I think it was the Heights hat you mentioned?
Azaan: Yeah well, I liked when we went to the march, I liked how, I don't know it was the end of the march but they had like a stage there and some of the kids, Freedom & Justice kids, went up on the stage and talked about different... We went up into and said a chant that we knew. And like the questions that we asked other people. We also said out to the crowd that was there and we're discussing like what's bad in The United States? And what would you like to change? And so different people came up to the mic and said different things about it. So that's what I liked.
Kim Tabari And that was 2 years ago. He really has a vivid memory of that experience. And then the food justice one I think was good too, right???
Azaan Yeah, oh yeah. I did like that one.
Kim Tabari: It was down on Skid Row where lots of homeless folks live. They went to L.A.??? and they had an urban garden on the rooftop and learned all about food justice. So that was also really powerful.
Azaan: And they showed us like different fruits. Like we had to taste strawberry and they showed us kale and spinach and different things like that that they had on the roof.
EmbraceRace: Thank you for that. That was great. One of the things I want to come back to is before the end of this is if you have any specific guidance for folks who might want to do this work. We have some questions that will allow you to give some advice about how people might do this wherever they are. And then we have a question about the school context.
One thing before we start diving into questions from folks is if you could identify some specific benefits of this program. So, I wanted to mention a couple that occurred to me that might not be obvious to folks. One is this issue of, from the very beginning, sort of elevating kids' voices right. Right, having kids, even young children, be part of the decision making from the beginning. You know, I think the way to teach kids that they have agency, you know, that have a right to weigh in on things that affect them and on other things besides is to actually give them an opportunity from an early age. So, I think that's amazing. I just wanted to highlight that.
Another piece is a mixed group, right. So, California of course, I mean mixed race, mixed everything. California of course is super, super diverse in every way. And Los Angeles certainly is as well. But diversity doesn't always mean that kids are engaging each other, right. Sometimes the schools themselves are less diverse than certainly the city. And even within diverse schools, kids aren't necessarily hanging out and having really meaningful interactions, relationships across these lines. Clearly, you're doing that here. I just want to highlight that, especially in light of the demographic trends. We don't, including kids of color, so often we talk about white kids and kids of color learning to get along. But certainly California, which is majority kids of color, we need these kids to be learning to respect and get along and all of that. Could you just highlight a couple other things that you think is a clear win from doing this work for you and the kids?
Kim Tabari Yeah definitely a lot of parents talk about seeing personal growth and development within their children. So, when they're at home they're a little bit more able to be curious about things, ask questions if they see stuff or they overhear things at school, they might intervene and say "Actually, you know, I learned about global solidarity and in this group that I'm in, and this is what it means. And, you know, this is how citizenship works right." I mean I worked at a university where college kids didn't know that immigrants had to take an exam. They just thought that you could just become a citizen, right. And so the just the fact that these 8, 10, 11 year old’s have that knowledge that, in order to be a citizen in The United States, you have to take a test. You have to pass the test, you know, and leading up to that you have to pay at least $1,000 just for application fees. So we talked about all these different parts. And that gave them a lot of knowledge. So parents are often talking about the growth and development they see in their kids. They're also learning.
EmbraceRace: I just have to note that we know for a fact that relatively few native-born Americans, Americans born here, could pass that test if they didn't study for it hard, right.
Kim Tabari: *laughs* Yes. Yes. Yes, I think we had a few questions from that test too. They also learn leadership skills. Right. So they they are learning that as well. And then just overall social justice awareness just around many different facets of social justice. So those are like the 3 big things that the parent feedback has been about. The learning that they're getting, the kids are getting.
EmbraceRace: We're getting a lot of questions about, you know, people want to look at a website, curriculum, a start their own group and I don't know that you guys have all that but. But if you do let us know.
Kim Tabari: So we don't have a website yet. We're in the process of making that. So stay tuned!
I think, as you think about challenges in starting a group, there's lots of positives and then there are some challenges, like securing funding to keep this afloat. And so right now parents pay a donation for their kids to be part of this program. And we would like it to be at the point kids' parents don't have to pay for them to be there. That we would be able to have the money that it takes to sustain the program. And so when we go out into the community, we want to pay community members for their time. We want to give our freedom guides a stipend, and then there's graduation, making the badges ... So the costs aren't a lot, but there is some cost. We estimated about $1,500 the first year in terms of fees collected and donations we got from friends and family. We did a GoFundMe the first and the second year. So once we can get some sustainable funding, then I think we'll be able to take it to the next step. We wanted to try it out for the first 3 years on this sort of skeleton budget to see if this is something that we can truly manage.
One of the other key things that I think has been really nice for this community building piece is that at the end of each session, at 12:30, the parents take turns providing lunch for the kids. So they have all kinds of different ethnic foods. So parents provide like different meals. And if folks are busy, they can buy things as well. Like there's no judgment about that at all. But I think that helps, you know, kids being there for a couple of hours, you know, they eat a lot. *laughs* And so they don't have to rush off. Right. They could stay and they can eat and they can play and they can talk. And so breaking bread together with the parents as well as the kids has really been an important element in sustaining the community.
EmbraceRace: That's great. We have a question from another another Kim who asks, "How are parents engaged with the children during their activities or discussions? Have you found some parents want to be very active with their child and others want you to do most of the interacting with their child?"
Kim Tabari: Yeah. On certain days we'll let them know this is a Sunday when you drop off your kid, you know, we're gonna have a family chat. So if you can stay and we check in with the parents once in a while on what questions come up or if they have any other inquiries. Some people are asking about how are they incorporating this in their lives at home. How are the other younger siblings feeling about not going? So we have a space for the parents to check in as well ever so often, but we give them notice. So this Sunday, when you drop the kids off, please stay and we'll chat for an hour. Or come come pick them up a little bit early so you can also have lunch with us together.
So there is a lot of times for parent engagement. And then we also, I mean, we probably could do this a little bit more but we would sometimes try to put together like a handout, a one pager of whatever that topic was so that if things come up they can have something to refer to. So that's often useful as well. So they can come home with something and say, "Oh this is what we talked about." And, you know, if they need to refer to it, we just let them know.
EmbraceRace: You just mentioned, you know, this question of how the kids are incorporating this work into their daily lives. And you touched on it a bit before as well talking about how they might be able to talk about global solidarity and what that means. And if needed, challenge what they might be getting in school. But 2 related questions.
One is could you say a little bit more-- you know maybe Azaan, you might have some ideas about this-- ways that you've brought what you've learned home or outside of that setting, whether to school or home, your community whatever it is? And then a related question maybe for you, Kim. We have a question about whether or not this can be done in the school context, something like what you're doing could be done in school. Are there any obstacles that seem obvious or would need to be considered if it's to be done in school? Maybe we can start first with the bringing it home bringing, bringing it outside of the Kids 4 Freedom & Justice weekend context.
Azaan Well I like to tell people about what I'm doing. And so in school if something doesn't seem correct, I'll say like, "I've heard or I've learned that, like for example, to be a citizen in the United States, you have to take certain test and it's this amount of money." Or I'll tell like my friends. They'll be like, "Where were you today?" And I'll be like, "I was at Kids 4 Freedom & Justice and learning about different things like..." And I'll tell them about the topic.
EmbraceRace: Like your mom said, a lot of people don't know what it takes to be a citizen.
Kim Tabari: Yeah. I find that it's amazing that he's developed the skill to really thrive in different spaces. In elementary school, his school was predominantly white. In middle school now, his school is predominantly Black and Latino. His neighborhood is predominantly white, I think. So he's really able to just manage in any given situation. And I think that's what I would want for him. I don't ever want him to feel like, "I can't operate in that world." And I think when they are together in Kids 4 Freedom & Justice and they build themselves and they feel whole, then they're able to just really operate in any space. And he's really good about doing that and I think it's because he has lots of different experiences. I mean I'm involved in Black Lives Matter, in the Long Beach chapter, and so he attends a lot of meetings, he knows the Assata Shakur closing chant. So he is really able to be in lots of different spaces and I think that's a credit to him just wanting to learn and experience different things.
Your question about having to do this at school. I think that this would be a great thing to do at school. It probably would end up being like an after-school program. And so they might be pushed back in terms of what topics are talked about but I think that it should be something easily duplicated at schools, particularly after school. Not in their daily curriculum. It might be too hard to add to that. But I could see them doing it. It's got to have an element of fun. And it's got to have an element where they're actually putting their knowledge into practice.
And so yes, they can learn about it at school but the limitation is they're not able to go to a march, or they're not able to go to a museum together. Or they're not able to go on a hike together. So those are some of the limitations, I think, if you try to replicate it at school you end up really trying to be creative bringing a yoga instructor in and like talking about teaching kids different things that they could do with their bodies. So there's things that people can be creative to bring to the school. But I think the kids are so curious and excited to explore the world. So that's the part that they really love, going on field trips.
EmbraceRace: I wanted to note that you're clearly, right, you're supplementing a lot at home and in that context, I'd like to give some love to Azaan's other mom who is also listening in and weighed in on the chat. I do hear Azaan, even the way that you reflect on your experience there and reflect on the 2 years, I mean it does feel like you've got this perspective that's really understanding and seeing your own growth and that's kind of a beautiful thing.
We got a question about books. Are there particular books that you guys read together or that you've been able to, for this age span, 8 to 12, bring in that have been central to the curriculum, whether you do it together or it's recommended at home?
Kim Tabari: Well I mean the curriculum really comes from a lot of different community organizations that are in L.A. And so we really try to work closely with community organizations that are on the ground doing this work. So it's not reading a book the way they do in school and really trying to expand. You know, we go to the Korean Resource Center. We've gone to, you know, All People's Churches where we have our meetings and it's sort of a very inclusive space. We've gone to the Native American land. We've gone to the Hammer Museum at UCLA. So we like to take them to a lot of different places and so they're very like visual learners. But I mean personally I have recommendations and I could share later and you can you can post those.
But one of the things that a good friend of mine just wrote this book called We Live for the We: The Political Power of Black Motherhood by Dani McClain. She has chronicled a lot of the ways in which folks are trying to see their children thrive. And there is some stuff about Azaan and myself in here for full transparency. We talk about Kids 4 Freedom as one of the ways in which he thrives and one of the ways that's important for me to teach him joy and not to teach him to be fearful in the world as a young Black child, right. And so I want him to be silly and laugh and find joy. And so this is one of one of the reasons why I do this program is because I don't want him to grow up in a very fearful way. And so she collected a lot of stories like that and a lot of lessons learned. She really collected lessons from mothers nationwide. And how to really ensure that your child is living with joy and how parents are just doing bold things like creating Kids 4 Freedom & Justice in these uncertain times.
Another suggestion I have too is another friend of mine, her name is Trina Greene Brown and she is a Black feminist. And I'm sure you know Trina and she has a podcast,Parenting for Liberation, and that has really excellent suggestions and ideas as well. Listening to her podcast, Parenting for Liberation.
And then if you're in Detroit, my third recommendation is, there's a group out there called Mothering Justice with Danielle Atkinson as the Founding Director. And they are reaching over 50,000 mothers and involving them in voter engagement projects and Mama conversations and talking about financial stability as moms and just doing a lot of leadership work for mothers because a lot of times don't get credited.
Those are 3 suggestions that I have. We want all of the Black boy magic or the Black girl magic happening. They're not lacking for joy. When you ask Azaan what his favorite word is, would do you say?
Kim Tabari *laughs* You're just doing that. For the longest time it was "joyful" you know. I remember the first time he said that it was surprising to me. Now that he's going into the eighth grade, his favorite word is "because" I don't know.
EmbraceRace: *laughs* So for folks who want to do this....
Kim Tabari: Yes. I didn't answer that question. So what I would recommend, if people want to start this in their area, is to find a good group of dedicated parents and just start having the conversation. We want something more than a boy’s club or a Boy Scout or Girl Scout for our kids. We want to teach them some of the important ways in which social justice affects their lives, our family lives, particularly kids of color. And so just start having those conversations and then lay out a plan of to what that would look like. We've got a lot of paperwork that we started in terms of application process and recruitment and just creating, you know, it's a simple like project management piece of creating that.
So I think our next goal is to think about whether or not we want to form a nonprofit organization which will elevate this to another level and that's something that we've been thinking about as well. But yeah just start, just find your people and your people don't necessarily have to look like you. Just find your people that you connect with that share your values and just start having this conversation and then follow up with some intentionality. Maybe even like a 3-hour retreat at someone's house. A friend of mine offered up his house and we were there all day and retreat planning. So we've got to put the work in upfront in order for it to pay off in the long run for our kids.
EmbraceRace Where do you all meet, when you meet?
Kim Tabari We meet right now at a church school. One of our team members was affiliated with that church and so they were able to offer us the space because it's a Sunday and nobody's in school on Sunday. So we were able to use this space upstairs on Sundays and they also had a nice open yard with the play structure and so we'd go out, take a break, play. We'd set up lunch tables outside and so it was an easy, you know, it all worked out really well. And we made a donation to the church, of course!
So figure out your resources in the community, figuring out where you would hold meetings is probably the biggest thing because space in any city is really hard. So if folks are working in universities that they could use a classroom on a Sunday. Lots of universities don't have classes on Sunday, for sure. So finding a space that they could meet once a month, connecting to actions that are happening in your city and, you know, you'd be amazed at what you can pull off. But it does take commitment from that body of people.
EmbraceRace: We have a question from the chat. Clearly your group is currently constituted as mostly for kids of color.
Kim Tabari: Yeah.
EmbraceRace: Are white kids allowed?
Kim Tabari: Yes. We don't have any right now, but yes.
EmbraceRace: If you did, and I'm thinking ahead- perhaps you do decide to become a non-profit or to grow larger. I'm just wondering what difference would it make in perhaps how you think about the work or the work you do, if you've already anticipated that if you did have, you know, not just 1 but let's say 25% percent white kids and parents?
Kim Tabari: Well, I think that in selecting kids and parents to the group I think they would really have to understand going in that this is a space primarily for kids of color but we want to be inclusive to all kids, right. So I would never want to tell a kid "no." And I think if the values of that person lines up with ours, then I see no reason why they can't be part of our group because they will have a lot to learn and they will have a lot to share from their perspective. So I think I see that happening in the future. And so I definitely think that's something that's able to happen in the near future. I don't think that it's an "either/or." I think it's an "either/and."
EmbraceRace: Andrew is asking about your nonprofit already!
Kim Tabari: *laughs* If anybody listening out there wants to send us a donation. Yes I will leave you my e-mail at the end.
EmbraceRace: I have one more question. A big part of the reason we wanted to talk to you is that what you're doing is so aligned with what we're doing. And one way we think about it is, you know, about a year ago President Obama was in South Africa delivering the Mandela lecture and there's a quote that he made there that's been circulating about how "every generation has an opportunity to remake the world."
But we, at EmbraceRace, talk about how every generation actually does remake the world. For better or for worse. And so our work is largely with that in mind, right. So how we bring up kids, how they think about things, who they value and who they see as fully human- it's really important. Azaan and all his peers they'll be running the world. Suppose this takes off in scale and lots of kids are getting this kind of education and experience. What would happen? What would huge success look like 20 years, or 15, or even 10 years down the road?
Kim Tabari: Yeah. So we've actually talked about this. *laughs* And because I'm also part of a practice group of seven generations. So we look at seven generations into the future and seven generations back, right. And so we think about what would the world be like seven generations from today, or 140 years from today and what are the impacts that we're making? Things that we're doing now, the things that Azaan and his friends will be doing.
For example, Azaan is quite the environmentalist, for example. He has a soft spot for all things environmental. And so I would imagine that they would have by then created mechanisms to clean the ocean and save the wildlife and really just harnessing solar energy and just really leaning into things for the good of the world, for the good of the planet. We're wearing these 4 oceans bracelets which he loves and it's a company that cleans the ocean, right. And he, you know, we shared it with him and I don't think he's taken it off since we've given it to him. And then he asked, "Mom, can I have one for one of my friends? Because I went to school and I was sharing it with him. And I was telling him a story and he said, 'Oh I would like to have one of those bracelets 'because that sounds like a really good cause.'"
And so I think that in the next 20, 30, 40 years that, you know, the kids that are going to Kids 4 Freedom & Justice will just be making leaps and bounds in terms of changing the world, in terms of adding to the racial justice conversation, creating organizations with racial justice lens. You know, just adding to the environmental practices. So just, you know definitely decreasing all the problems we have today, homelessness and so forth. It's like he'll take my last dollar to give to a homeless guy, right.
Here's a lesson. One day I was outside of the pizza store and this guy said, "Oh do you have any money?" And I said, "I don't know". And then I turned to Azaan and I said, "If I give him money, he's probably gonna buy alcohol." And you know what he said? He said, "Mom, the purpose is for you to give him money. It doesn't matter what he does with it all. The purpose is for you to give." And I was just floored. Because I said, "Son, you're right. Because if I need a drink every now and then, you know, he does." *laughs* So it just reminded me that like, you know, if our purpose is to give, then give, right. And if our purpose is to love, then love. And so I think he really reminds me to just keep it that simple. We want to give of ourselves. Be of service to others and, you know, love people with open hearts and, you know, I'm just so proud of the person that he's going to be in the next 50 years.
EmbraceRace: We are in good hands.
Kim Tabari: *laughs*.
EmbraceRace: Beware of kids who take our blessings seriously, right.
Kim Tabari: Yeah. Another favorite person of his is Angela Davis. He came home and he said, "Mom, I was at this BLM meeting in L.A. and I met Angela Davis. Do you know her? She's awesome." And I said, "Oh yeah, I think I know her," you know. *laughs*. So he's just taking it all and soaking it all up and really reflecting back like some of the things that he's hearing and learning.
EmbraceRace: Another question we had about who are the people that give you hope, and so that's great. That's a great note to end on. Thank you.
Kim Tabari: Thank you so much for having us.
EmbraceRace: Thank you so much for agreeing to come on and all the work that you're doing. We really support you and want that non-profit, or however this turns out, to work.
Kim Tabari: Yes yes.
EmbraceRace: And collaboration in the future as well.
Kim Tabari: You know and if folks are listening and that are in L.A. and they have kids of color that they want to be in the program for the third cohort, certainly email me at my e-mail that I listed: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kim Tabari is one of the founding parents of Kids 4 Freedom & Justice. She has always had a passion for social justice, higher education, and research. In her day job, she currently manages the Program for Environmental and Regional Equity at the University of Southern California. She holds a doctorate degree in Educational Leadership from California State University, Long Beach, and has worked at a variety of institutions both public and private. Her research training using qualitative methodology is in students of color, in particular, African American males persisting through higher education, found in her published dissertation, African American Males and Persistence, 2013.
Kim is mom to an amazing 12-year-old boy, Azaan, who joined this conversation. She is a loving sibling to three brothers and two sisters, and a certified yoga teacher. She participates regularly with a POC zen practice LA community in Tai Chi, Somatics and other self-care modalities. Read more about Kim and contact her here.
Azaan is 12 years old (almost 13!) and a rising eighth grader. He enjoys different sports including playing football and basketball. He also likes skateboarding and trying different tricks with his friends. In school, his favorite subject is science. He has been a member of Kids 4 Freedom & Justice for its two years and just became an alum.