Kids learn a lot about fairness — sharing is caring, et cetera — but what about unfairness? How should children learn about injustice and how to speak up about it?
Last year, in the wake of the deaths of Eric Garner, Sandra Bland and Michael Brown, Jamaica Plain's Tanya Nixon-Silberg and Francie Latour, both mothers, found themselves asking that question. Looking for a way to take action, they formed Wee the People, an art series for children centered on the importance and tradition of protest.
"[We saw] our kids as a source of real uplift and positivity, in terms of finding ways to engage them around social justice," Latour says. "One thing that we came to understand and really try to embrace was that kids understand what's fair... if they can understand fairness then they can understand justice, if they can understand justice, then they can understand injustice."
This May, Wee the People held their first event, a children's' march: kids, accompanied by the Jamaica Plain Honk band, marched through Jamaica Plain holding colorful placards that they designed. Earlier this month, they showed up at Jamaica Plain's Porchfest, hosting a drum circle, a story hour and an "anatomy of a protest" game, in which kids organized the timelines of historic protests — like the Montgomery bus boycott — into “phases," competing for cupcakes.
Latour says the series has as much to offer parents as it does their kids.
"A big thing for me was a lot of parents who want to have these conversations with their kids but they don't know how, and I have struggled myself," she adds.
"I would have never considered myself an activist until I had a daughter," Nixon-Silberg continues. "I realized, ‘Oh my gosh, I need to try and find a way to make a better way for her,‘ and [the way] for me to do that is to educate myself."
Nixon-Silberg explains that Wee the People is about helping kids find the joy in protest without exposing them to some of the dangers of a real one.
"I have a three year old, a night march is not going to work for me and for her," she says. "But we talk a lot about finding the joy… it's about just being able to express yourself and say, 'I have this voice, I understand what's fair, why don't you?' and giving [kids] the opportunity to be able to do that."
On September 10th, Wee the People will host another kids' march starting at the Mattapan Branch of the Boston Public Library. More events are in the works; parents with kids aged 3-11 can RSVP for them on Wee the People's Facebook page .
"We have so many things we want to do, we're very impatient, that's our problem," Latour says. We hope to expand so that this circle can include parents who may know that something, deep down, is not right to try to find ways to make it less threatening and find actual words, tools, language."