Weekend Reading

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First in our reading list is, appropriately, a summer reading list, via Public Books. It’s curated by their section editors, and covers topics from Global Black History to Literary Fiction to Comics. Our library lists just expanded from reasonable to out-of-control…here are a few we’re really excited about:

School’s First Day of School by Adam Rex and Christian Robinson (Roaring Brook). This warm, witty, and inclusive picture book filters first-day-of-school jitters through the perspective of the school itself, giving young readers a new outlook on a familiar place…

In Gratitude by Jenny Diski (Bloomsbury). Part of it is mourning: those of us who read everything Diski wrote read this memoir-of-dying as a goodbye to an essential habit. Part of it is the pleasure Diski always gave: seemingly familiar stories told by dispensing with any of the usual reference points, like some sort of trick of the light making you step gingerly into a room you thought you knew…

Underground Airlines by Ben Winters (Mulholland). In the spirit of Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle, this account of slavery still ongoing in 2016 America asks readers to notice how much (or how little) has actually changed in our own world of racial profiling and third-world factory production…

Public Library: And Other Stories by Ali Smith (Anchor). Smith’s latest collection looks uncannily like the bookshelf of a library: you don’t know what you’ll find next to what, but you do trust that some logic governs the juxtapositions.  The lyrical statistics and laconic anecdotes that caulk together Smith’s stories add up to a story of their own, about the neoliberal British state replacing librarians by volunteers and selling off reading rooms to private fitness clubs.  The collection ends with Smith’s partner going through her dead mother’s purse to dispose of credit cards, reward cards, driver’s license: “The one thing I couldn’t bring myself to throw away was her library card.”

Next week’s interview is with an Episcopal priest working in interfaith education out of Chicago. If you’d like to get a quick preview of what we’ll be discussing, check out this quick read from Daily Kos about the contemporary Sanctuary Movement:

A month after popular vote loser Donald Trump’s election, some 450 houses of worship nationwide pledged to become sanctuaries for undocumented immigrants, with one church in the Los Angeles area calling for “holy resistance” to his mass deportation force. And houses of worship have heeded the call, with the number of congregations vowing to protect immigrants from ICE doubling to 800, according to a new report from 60 Minutes. Undocumented parents like Jeanette Vizguerra—recently named one of Time’s 100 most influential people—have fled to churches for safety and as a last recourse.

And in honor of our first Small Stones Interview, we want to finish up by highlighting LaQuisha Beckum’s non-profit, Generation Reformation, and some of its programs. Check them out, and get in touch with the organization if you are local, have question, or even have services to offer! They are particularly looking for funding to complete the Generation Reformation organization site, which you can find here. The Facebook page is here. One of their projects is an after-school program that you can check out here.

Small Stones Interviews: LaQuisha Beckum

We are thrilled to present the first in a series of Small Stones Interviews, a conversation with educator LaQuisha Beckum.

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LaQuisha Beckum

“Whether I’m working with the teens, or with the college students, I’m always trying to ensure they are kind to themselves in the process.”

LaQuisha (they/them) is a community college Psychology/Child Development instructor, currently at American River College, and a Program Coordinator with the Sacramento Youth Commission. They are also the president of the Board of Directors for the nonprofit Generation Reformation. Full disclosure: LaQuisha and one of our editors, Emily, were colleagues for several years at De Anza College. We caught up with LaQuisha in April to find out what they’ve been up to since the election and how the new administration, and its policies, are impacting their students.

Small Stones: So, you are the first person we’re actually talking to–thanks so much! How did you get into education, if we can start from the very beginning?

LaQuisha Beckum: I began my career as a camp leader back in 1996. I worked my way up to assistant site director, then site director receiving certification to work with 5-9-year-olds and 10-14-year-olds. That work was with the YMCA and lasted 5 years. During this time, I was also working as a TA for a professor at SJSU. I spent one year working at a teen center after leaving the YMCA, then went into research. I didn’t start teaching college until winter 2006 at De Anza College.

SS: So what are things are like right now for you, as an educator? You’re at American River now? Teaching psychology?

LB: Yes, I’m at American River College now. Students are hanging in there. I think they feel similar to the rest of us, without them having the historical notes we have. They are feeling anxious, afraid at times, hopeful (one teen told me that he hopes this will be a phoenix phase…things crumble only to be reborn into something better). I work with youth ages fourteen to nineteen AND teach at the college. Nothing that either group has said is vastly different.

SS: What historical notes do you think are most important? Fourteen-year-olds in particular have only really known one administration…

LB: I think above everything, is understanding systems…that these things aren’t created by individuals, that it’s a group effort! We can talk about the idiocy of Drumpf all day, but it took a messed up system to even make it possible for him to reach this rank of government.

SS:  I remember being afraid about what would come next if he weren’t elected, wondering what the system would spit at us the next time.

LB: Exactly…they are familiar with Obama, but they probably didn’t realize he dropped three bombs an hour on the Mid-East in 2016.

I have been quite numb since he [Trump] won.

SS: The optics were way better, but bombs are bombs.

LB: Precisely!

SS: How does it affect how you teach? I’ve been your student before in professional settings, so I know you connect with students well. Is that easier? Harder? More urgent? None of the above?

Continue reading “Small Stones Interviews: LaQuisha Beckum”

Small Stones Interviews: Coming Soon!

IMG_1298We are still here! And despite what our posting schedule might indicate, we’ve been hard at work–when not drowning in the news cycle.

Next week we will bring you the first installment in a series of educator interviews. Part of what we hope to do with this space is feature voices of the people who continue to, for lack of a better way of putting it, work their asses off to make sure that the future of our civic society is better than the present. We’ve been talking with classroom teachers; we’ve also been talking with people whose education work is a little less traditional. All of them, we feel, have an important angle on what it means to educate in this moment, in this country.

It’s not too late to share your story! If you’re interested in having a conversation with us that could be featured here, get in touch. We’re excited to share the organizations and programs our teachers are working with, but we are very open to anonymous interviews as well.

Check back soon. We think you’ll be as fascinated as we have been to hear what these educators are doing.

Wednesday Reading: Our Research Edition

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News is coming fast and furious. Before we dive in to our post, a couple quick links:

Resistbot.

Contacting your representatives, with students.

Now, back to the post we began drafting yesterday afternoon:

We’re busy over here getting our new oral history project off of the ground (come talk to us!), and as we do so, we’re doing a fair amount of background reading. So today’s post is about sharing some of that material with you. Consider it a preview into the conversations you’ll soon be able to read for yourself, and drop any links of your own in the comments. Or find us on Twitter!

If you, like us, didn’t know much about the Sanctuary Movement of the ’80s and why it’s coming back around, here’s a great place to learn more, via Religionlink.

In the 1980s, some American churches defied federal law by harboring undocumented immigrants from deportation to their war-torn Central American home countries. Several pastors were arrested and put on trial. At its height, between 400 and 500 churches were involved in what came to be known as the “sanctuary movement.”

Today, the Trump administration’s immigration policies — the proposed building of a border wall, the crackdown on undocumented workers — have prompted a revival of the sanctuary movement. After Donald Trump’s election, organizers reported a near doubling in the number of congregations involved, either through the providing of services or housing of undocumented immigrants. And the movement has broadened beyond its original Christian and Jewish participants to include Muslim communities.

The Rumpus has an excellent interview with Jeff Chang, whose most recent book, We Gon’ Be Alright, is now out.

The opposition to Trump was mobilizing minutes after he won the presidency, and of course it’s going to reach a new stage next week [at the inauguration]. What I worry about is, what happens—and this is a question so many of us were asking ourselves in the mid-2000s—what happens if we actually win? Will people retreat to a state of complacency? Over the last few years we’ve seen the rise of social justice movements that put issues of economic injustice, racial inequality, and environmental justice right in the middle of our discourse. I’m heartened by the idea that we might be able to come together against a common foe, but I’m worried we might not learn the lessons of the past and retreat to our corners afterward. That’s what keeps me up at night.

From The Nation, “Wisconsin’s Voter-ID Law Suppressed 200,000 Votes in 2016 (Trump Won by 22,748)”:

Prior to the 2016 election, Eddie Lee Holloway Jr., a 58-year-old African-American man, moved from Illinois to Wisconsin, which implemented a strict voter-ID law for the first time in 2016. He brought his expired Illinois photo ID, birth certificate, and Social Security card to get a photo ID for voting in Wisconsin, but the DMV in Milwaukee rejected his application because the name on his birth certificate read “Eddie Junior Holloway,” the result of a clerical error when it was issued. Holloway ended up making seven trips to different public agencies in two states and spent over $200 in an attempt to correct his birth certificate, but he was never able to obtain a voter ID in Wisconsin. Before the election, his lawyer for the ACLU told me Holloway was so disgusted he left Wisconsin for Illinois.

And at Marie Claire, Sarah Kendzior dives into what Trump’s healthcare bill indicates about his administration’s agenda towards women.

Since taking office, Trump has displayed the signature traits of an aspiring autocrat: disregard for the constitution, the installation of unqualified family members in high-level positions, the abuse of executive power to enhance personal wealth, the scapegoating of ethnic minorities, and ongoing threats to free speech, free media, and public protest. His rule has been a continual test of checks and balances, and his biggest check, arguably, has been women.

The healthcare law is not only a sadistic assault on the sick and vulnerable, but a gendered attack meant to render his most forceful opponents, American women, helpless. Autocracy and patriarchy often go hand in hand; the countries with the highest levels of political freedom in general tend to prioritize women’s healthcare, education, and other basic rights.

More from us soon.

Refugees, Sesame Street, and Friday Music

Courtesy of NPR, an excellent article on the newest visitors to refugee children: the Sesame Street Muppets.

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image via NPR

We are fascinated by the research process that Sesame Workshop is up to here.

In partnership with the International Rescue Committee, Sesame producers and early-childhood experts are soliciting guidance and feedback from relief organizations, trauma experts, academics and others who have worked with refugees. They’ll also be making research visits to refugee camps in Jordan.

According to the IRC, of the 65 million people displaced from their homes worldwide, more than half are children.

As American readers, steeped in multiculturalism (not to mention as Bay Area readers, used to a high level of diversity), what stood out the most to us, though, was what children might not be taught.

Cairo Arafat, who oversees production of the Arabic language Sesame Street from Abu Dhabi, urged her colleagues not to make assumptions that refugees will share their values such as inclusivity.

“In many of these populations,” she said, “children are still taught, ‘No. Be wary of the people who don’t talk like you, don’t look like you or come from a different sect.’ ” With the special conditions facing refugees — including security issues — Arafat advised careful thinking about what they would like to teach.

It’s an interesting reality check. On a personal level, in our day to day lives, we are lucky enough that this feels like a strange, even wrong, thing to teach children. It runs counter to what we hope to teach our own. But we are also fortunate enough not to live in a society where members of another sect could very well prove dangerous, and in that way, it’s a great reminder of the importance of doing this kind of research prior to beginning any new project. (We’d hazard a guess that there may be groups of children in the US who, say, would not benefit from a curriculum, no matter how well-intentioned, designed to teach that police officers are friends.)

Another focal point for the organization is helping children better understand adult stress.

“It’s very important to explain to children how parents feel about displacement, about losing their homes, about moving to a new country,” said Rabih El Chammay, a psychiatrist and head of the National Mental Health Program of Lebanon (where there are more than 1 million Syrian refugees). “Children notice what their parents go through but they don’t understand it. They get puzzled: ‘Why is Daddy shouting at me now? I didn’t do anything wrong.’ “

Sesame Street has been helping children worldwide process and explore and live their emotions, not just their ABCs. And so for Friday music, in honor of one of Sesame Workshop’s newest endeavors, we present a couple of old school songs that can still help kids (and adults!) get in touch with some big feelings. Enjoy!

May Day Repost: Students Taking Action

Here’s another quick repost for anyone who might find it useful on a day of action. Happy May Day!

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Should students get involved in civil disobedience?

The answer to that question has everything to do with circumstances: who the students are, what actions they plan to take, and what they are protesting. And that’s just the beginning.

Given our political reality, however, it’s naive to think that students and their families whose lives may well be directly impacted by policy change won’t be eager to have their voices heard. For some, this will mean civil disobedience.

So here are some resources that may be helpful for anyone who plans to protest.

From the Albert Einstein Institution, 198 Methods of Nonviolent Action is an excellent list of ways to resist.

The list is grouped into categories that include “Formal Statements,” “Communication with a Wider Audience,” “Drama and Music,” “Actions by Consumers,” “Symbolic Public Acts,” and more. Note that this resource is a critical part of the PBS Learning Media lesson plan covered here.

One of the things we like most about this document is the breadth of methods presented. Not all students will want, much less be able to, join street demonstrations, but most will be able to find a method here that helps them use their voice in a way that’s powerful. Maybe that’s #18, Display of flags and symbolic colors. For another, it could be #2, Letters of opposition or support. Others might make use of #36, Performances of plays and music. (And we have material that can help with both options!)

For those who will be joining demonstrations, Right to Protest has a detailed listof steps to take to best ensure safety for protestors.

The tips begin with Before You Go and run through Get Back Safely and Share Your Story.

One place to find demonstrations that may be near you is here. However, you know your students and situation best; we can’t recommend enough that educators vet protests and demonstrations to the best of their ability before encouraging students to take part. Safety is paramount, and there are many ways to be heard.

Got additional resources on this topic? Any tips or stories? We’d love to hear them.