When families come together in a social justice community of practice they have an infinite power to alter the fabric of their families and communities.
It was about a year ago that a friend of mine asked if I could provide social justice workshops for parents. My first reaction was – “Who, me?” And as we talked about it I realized that while I didn’t have all the answers I certainly was deeply engaged in the process of bringing social justice to my family, and had the ability to share that process with others. Within a month I had started this blog and had talked with the local library about partnering to offer social justice chats for parents along with increasing the social justice related books in the library.
The year has been truly incredible.
As I began this process of sharing “Parenting 4 Social Justice” with the world I realized that even though I was committed to social justice in my community and in the world, I struggled in many ways to bring it into my family. Here are some of the things I struggle with… My kids have a hard time sharing. My kids want to be first, best, biggest, fastest. My kids love money. My kids love private property. My kids use violence to solve problems. My kids have a hard time saying I’m sorry. I’m not kidding! And, my kids are not only these things. My kids are so much more. What are the lessons and the gifts they are bringing to this planet? To me? How do I work with these qualities that are showing up in my kids with compassion, patience, and connection? And how do I work with those similar qualities that show up in me? And work on myself with compassion, patience and connection?
By sharing my parenting for social justice struggles with the world it made me accountable to continue trying, even through the struggle. Because of the support I have received from community I have seen my family shift in some subtle, and some groundbreaking ways. I’ll share a few examples.
My kids agreed to give up all but one of their Christmas presents (all presents, from grandparents, cousins, and from us) and for that money to be shared with Standing Rock instead! I can’t tell you how huge this is. At Christmas they will learn how much money was donated to the water protectors at Standing Rock because of their decision. It will be an amazing reveal.
My kids are thinking about race and are developing their ability to talk about race. A big reason for this is that I am talking with my kids (ages 5 and almost 8) about Black Lives Matter – which necessitates talking about history to explain current events. We’ve been reading lots of books – that we get from the library! We donate to Black Lives Matter in our state and we show up for events in support of Black Lives Matter. If I hadn’t started this blog and the chats – I think I might have just done that showing up by myself, leaving my kids at home with dad. Instead, our whole family shows up to marches. It is no small feat to get out the door with these two munchkins and their overwhelmed dad to show up for a solemn and important public stand of solidarity.
Yet another shift in my family is about gender. My almost 8 year old, who I would consider to be as far as can be on the scale of masculinity, has never in his life asked to play with a girl. This week he did. He asked to play with a girl. He called her up. She came over. They had a blast. And this fall when we went to teacher conferences at his school his teacher shared that while he is quiet in class he speaks up when he has something to say. The example she shared is when kids in the class were saying that boys can’t wear skirts. He raised his hand and said, “Boys can wear whatever they want. My teacher, Alfred, often wears a skirt.” Wow! I’m so proud of him.
None of this would have happened if I would have been on my own to figure this out. This all happened because I am in a community of practice that is supporting each other in practicing and deepening social justice practice in their families. All of the families who have been involved in this community have their own stories, coming from their own challenges and their own commitments to change.
In this past year I have seen how powerful it is to develop a community of practice. And in this case, a community of parents who are coming together to share their struggles, their concerns, to practice hard conversations, and to support each other in shifting the ways we are engaging with our kids. All that effort radiates out into the community. This community of practice has an amazing spark of potential. We are much more powerful when we are together. We are infinite.
At our last chat the group of around 20 parents said, “We need this to continue.” The library said, “This is valuable for our community and we will continue to support this happening.” And so, we are embarking on another year as a community of practice. Sigh. It’s gonna be a tough year. All of the strength, courage, and tenacity we have is going to be called upon. And, we are up for the challenge.
I encourage you, wherever you are, find your community of practice. It could be just one other family. It could be hundreds of families. The important thing is to get together and support each other. And please, don’t hesitate to reach out if you need support in making this happen.
Towards collective liberation!