May Day Action with Children Toolkit
May Day is a tangible and concrete opportunity to call our youngest activists in to action. Our children have a strong, natural sense of “fairness” and May Day is a great opportunity to help them connect their sense of personal fairness to bigger questions of racial and social justice. It's a chance for them to learn how to question injustice and take action for change.
Wealthy slave owners created the concept of racism in America to divide and conquer the poor and stay in power. On May Day and everyday, we're reminded that we can only achieve freedom for all of us through racial justice.
In this toolkit you’ll find action items that come in various shapes and sizes designed for your lifestyles. Pick one or two or more that make sense to you to do. As white people showing up for racial justice, join us in engaging your youngest children in our struggle. We want dignity and justice for all people!
2 MINUTE ACTION: In just 1 click you can spread the word
Even toddlers can talk about May Day! Start by talking about fairness: INSERT LINK TO THIS TOOLKIT. #MayDay #parenting #multiculturalparenting #BlackLivesMatter #faircarepledge #fightfor15
30 MINUTE ACTION: Sit down and read with your child.
For parents new to talking about activism and protest with children of any age (including babies!):
Read the book “Click, Clack, Moo, Cows That Type” by Doreen Cronin to your child. This tale involves the cows and chickens on a farm requesting electric blankets because they are cold at night and organizing a strike when their demands are not met.
As you read, stop and engage your child in the text. For example, you might say:
- Do you know what it means to go on strike? The cows “going on strike” means that they are not going to give the farmer any milk until they get the blankets they need to keep warm at night.
- It’s really unfair that the cows and the chickens are cold when they go to sleep. It sounds like they really need those blankets. Can you think of something that people like me and you really need in order to live? (Answers may include food, water, and shelter—and make the connection that people protest or go on strike when these basic needs are not met.)
- When Farmer Brown takes out his typewriter, ask your child to re-write the letter. What would they say in response to the cows and hens if they were Farmer Brown?
- What about the other animals on the farm? Do you think they might be cold at night, too? How would you feel if you were a sheep on this farm?
For more ideas on talking about the concept of protest with our youngest children, consider reading the following blog posts by Raising Race Conscious Children:
- “’That’s not fair’ and the concept of protest”
- In light of Spring Valley: Activism, the police, and my three-and-a-half-year-old
- A messy conversation with my three-year-old about slavery and Black Lives Matter
- My two-year-old’s passion for consciousness-raising
For parents who are already talking about activism and protest with their children:
Read the book “Si, Se Puede! Yes, We Can!” by Diana Cohn to your child. This book details the history of the Justice for Janitors campaign in Los Angeles, through the eyes of a young boy named Carlitos and his mom, who is a janitor.
As you read, you may ask the following questions (also see questions from Click, Clack, Moo above):
- What do you see on the cover of the book? (Engage child in describing a protest. Why do people carry signs? Make music? March?)
- How do you think it makes Carlitos feel that his mom works full-time but still doesn’t have enough money to pay for his grandmother’s medicine? How does it make you feel?
- What do you think Carlitos can do to help his mom with the strike?
- Use some of these movement words from Abundant Beginnings in your conversation. What does it mean to be an Ally? What does Solidarity mean? Do you see these words in the book?
- Have you ever seen a group of people go on strike? Why were they striking? Consider sharing StandUpToVerizon (a current workers’ strike) or Fightfor$15 (organizing for a $15 per hour minimum wage), with your children and exploring ways to take action together.
- Also, consider exploring Do Something with your child, an organization that provides multiple ways for young people to create social change.
1 HOUR + ACTION:
- Organize a May Day Action at your home or a local book store and read one of the above books as a community of parents and children.
- Partner with a bookstore and ask them to stock copies of “Click, Clack, Moo, Cows That Type,” and “Si, Se Puede, Yes, We Can” and make them available along with copies of this toolkit.
- Hold a racial justice action house party/play date with likeminded families and decide how you want to take action together. It could be by bringing these resources into your community, hosting a racial justice reading at a library or friendly book store, asking your school or community to address an issues of racial justice, organizing a Family Friendly Black Lives Matter March -- or thinking up your own action to take together!
For tips on holding a house party, see these great resources from our affiliate groups:
- House Party Kit — Kentuckians for the Commonwealth
- Living Room Conversations — Rural Organizing Project
- Building a Movement through Monthly Dialogues — Alliance of White Anti-Racists Everywhere-Los Angeles (AWARE-LA)
Organizations supporting youth-led organizing/activism:
- The Free Child Project
- NYS Youth Leadership Council
- Urban Youth Collaborative
- Resilience Advocacy Project
- Community Food Advocates
- Young Women of Color HIV/AIDS Coalition
- Arab American Association of New York
If you’re a teacher looking to learn more about approaches like this, these resources are based in approaches from the field of multicultural education. It’s a field that stands on the writings of Paolo Freire and Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Renown theorists Christine Sleeter and Carl A. Grant support an approach to multicultural education that is social reconstructionist. At its core, multicultural education that is social reconstructionist challenges students to question injustice and become activists in creating change (Sleeter & Grant, 1987, 2006).
Thanks to Sachi Feris (Raising Race Conscious Children), Shannon Gaggaro (A Striving Parent), Rebecca Fredricks, Coleen Murphy, Zoe Williams, and Julie Roberts-Phung for putting this resource together. For more resources like this, join the conversation at http://bit.ly/SURJFamiliesFacebookGroup.