Tales from the Justice and Beyond Children’s Corner

Have I mentioned before that our Justice and Beyond children are amazing? Our corner for the children is the latest addition to our 4:45 Monday night meetings, a gathering of justice-seeking organizations, at Cafe Istanbul in the Healing Center St. Claude Avenue at St. Roch. We pulled back the curtain so that the children’s area, which consists of art supplies, books, and Lincoln logs, could be more a part of the group as a whole.

            We weren’t sure that would work, but the children have spontaneously created their own norms. Many prefer to eat their red beans and rice in the children’s area rather than with their parents. They are quiet and remain engaged in their various creative endeavors for the whole time the program lasts. They take it upon themselves to pack things away when the time comes.

            The program for this evening is on youth organizing. Sonny D Strong, his brother David Strong, and Ashley Moon Walker are on stage, interspersing their organizing strategies with songs and poems. Sonny and David are black. Ashley is white. Just when I think the children couldn’t care less about what’s going on on stage, they ask me to take the art work they have made to the presenters, a beautiful, colorful poster that says, COLOR DOESN’T MATTER. Most of what we talk about in Justice and Beyond is how color does matter, when it shouldn’t. But the children remind us that the centuries-old, politically-constructed, specious, concept of “race” doesn’t have to matter or even exist forever. Bless their new and innocent eyes. 

            As Sonny is talking, David’s 6-year-old Derrick (I’ll call him, so he won’t develop a media profile well before the age of consent), says, “That’s my uncle talking.” “I know,” I say. “You must be very proud of him.” Derrick: “Yeah. I’ll be on stage some day.” “Maybe sooner than you think,” I respond. A little while later, Sonny, as if reading or minds, calls him up and Derrick talks about his football team, pointing out his coach in the audience. As he’s finishing up his red beans and rice he asks me, “Did you see me on stage?”

            I have to say this too about Derrick: He’s in first grade and a great reader. Without any prompting he brought me a Dr. Seuss book and read the whole thing, cover to cover, without getting distracted by all that was going on the room. His Dad, David, runs a mentoring program. It must be very effective.

            The music this evening, though new to some of the older adults, was well-received by all. The youngsters in their spoken word, tried to clean up their language, but didn’t entirely succeed. The next day in the pillar’s meeting, the steering committee for Justice and Beyond, we had a discussion about that. We agreed that it was part of their artistic expression. Some said, the little ones probably didn’t notice.

            It’s my experience that the little ones notice everything, even when we think they don’t. In fact I would consider their little blanketed area the true conscience of the room. The second poster they send to the stage says, “Love each other – by children section.” I think we had better clean up our language and a whole lot else, as we prepare them to take over the world from us. Orissa Arend is a member of Justice and Beyond and author of Showdown in Desire, the Black

            It’s my experience that the little ones notice everything, even when we think they don’t. In fact I would consider their little blanketed area the true conscience of the room. The second poster they send to the stage says, “Love each other – by children section.” I think we had better clean up our language and a whole lot else, as we prepare them to take over the world from us.

Orissa Arend is a member of Justice and Beyond and author of Showdown in Desire, the Black

An Actual Justice and Beyond Meeting

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