MOTHERHOOD, SOCIAL JUSTICE

How To Explore Social Justice Words With Younger Children: ‘Justice’ ‘Power’ ‘Conflict’

Among discussions of homeschooling vs remote vs hybrid many of us forget that no matter what you choose, at the end of the day if your child is home with you, in some way, all the hours you spend with them are ‘home schooling’ 

So here we are  another day, another teaching session, have you reached teaching burn out yet? Do you really want to hear about yet another ‘Teaching Moment’?

Yes. Yes you do. Especially if it’s going to cement some of the most important words your children will ever use to understand the world around them, and turn into a sacred moment of affirmation. 

And yup I went there, I used the word sacred for a lesson plan that’s centered around a coloring page. 

A few weeks ago, in the spirit of reassessing our families commitment to anti-racism  we shared a post on three quiet actions for big social justice advocacy. The premise of which was to move on from the idea of ‘protesting’  to other  levels of social justice.

I wanted  to use the last two action items – 1) A list of words and meanings and 2) A coloring page (available in two sizes, here USA & here UK)  to elevate the children’s understanding of activism’  all the while allowing  a role for  God consciousness.

For those of you who had a look at the excellent  list of terms, although the idea of going through them verbatim with an older child might sound reasonable enough, you’ll soon realise going through any list  of definitions  is more dictionary vibes than sacred moment. So we decided to take the words written on the coloring page as a place to start –

 

Be Mindful of God and Speak for Justice 

(Quran 4: 9)

I had a nine year old, a six year old and a three year old, ready to, respectively,  roll their eyes, lose interest and dump crayons and pencil shavings all over the floor. So naturally I asked them –

What does justice mean?

The eldest  mumbled something about ‘when things are good and fair?’ The six year old defaulted to the answer she thinks I want to hear  -’kindness? And being kind’? And the three year old, because of course I asked him too – his answer was; ‘praying’ . WOAH. Profound. And then his siblings told me he was saying ‘PLAYING. Not praying’. Nevermind.  

I  was ready with my ready to read out definition ;

‘Justice means – Taking action to recover from a harmful conflict’

This led to ‘What is conflict?’ 

A disagreement between two people or groups who care about the outcome & consequences. Often in a conflict, one group or person holds more power than the other…

Which led to what is power ?

Having control over what happens to ourselves and others.

Justice, Conflict, Power.

Three big words for three little people. Little people that started to complain… ‘You said it’s coloring I ! I want to color ! I want to go outside’ 

My imagined dream lesson plan of sacred affirmation was not going well. Trying to quash my feelings, I tried to think of an example of all these definitions – something real they could visualise and I happened to remember a story they had recently heard and had much fun with. 

 This particular story, a Hodja’s tale, tells of a poor man taken to court by a rich merchant for merely smelling the wafts of  food from a restaurant owned by the latter, and was the perfect reference for every definition. And simple enough for the youngest child to understand. Best thing about it? You don’t even have to read it or tell it!Narrated by master storyteller, our favorite –  Jumana Moon, you can listen to the story here. In this video Jumana tells two different stories both absolutely worthy of your time, and for the purposes of this particular lesson listen from the  timestamp of 16.47

In fact, you could play this story and forget about this whole discussion for a few days and refer back to it when the time comes as I happened to do so. For as soon as I mentioned this story, even though they had heard it a couple weeks back, suddenly the meaning of conflict was brilliantly clear as was the concept of ‘power imbalance’ in a conflict.  Of the two men in conflict – one is a rich merchant with connections to the courts and judges of the land. It was the perfect way to share the universal truth of how, often it’s the people with money who hold more power and are less willing to give it up.  Another part of the story showed exactly what justice meant. It felt like a puzzle – piecing together the right part of the story with the right definition. I watched them literally stand up straighter to ask questions to try to figure out . 

Here are a few of the things we were able to glean from this session 

We were able to talk about some of Allah’s 99 names.  God as being THE Judge Al Fattaah, (Opener /Judge) 

Al-Hakam the Judge / the Giver of Justice

Al-Adl the Utterly Just 

Al Qadeer the Powerful

Al- Muqsit the Equitable 

Through the example of the judge in the story we were able to see how humans can abuse their power. The children were able to give me examples of different types of conflict they had experienced and known. All the way from classroom conflict to political conflict & police brutality both in this country (USA) and in other countries around the world – mainly – Indian Occupied Kashmir, a place that is close to their consciousness as so many members of our family live there. These three words and their meanings are ideal ones to use in understanding almost all conflict zones of the world. 

In our original post we suggest that you 

Let everyone say out loud the affirmation. Place it somewhere you can see it everyday. Experience together, the strength and baraka that comes from pledging yourself to sacred actions” 

 

After all this if you find yourself asking  the question – ‘but why is it important in the first place, my child is only nine/ six/ three/ ?

In a world built upon systemic oppressions, where colonialism has infiltrated so much of our narratives – Wouldn’t you rather your children, when being fed the same thing, are filtering the information with the right questions?  Where is the conflict? With whom lies the power?  What can my role be in  facilitating justice? 

This dive into the words through storytelling followed by a relaxed sprawled coloring and scribbling, and  then to convene again and say out loud these affirmations is a moment in time  I will hold on to.  Like anything we do in parenting – it is a seed planted. It felt good, felt right, felt positive. A pledge taken together as parent and child and sibling, all witness to each other’s potential.  

 

 

 

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