Little kids have this project called Flat Stanley. Flat Stanley travels around the country with you and then tells about his adventures. We drove to Florida on spring break. When we came back, my daughter and her classmates put their Flat Stanley’s on the window outside the classroom to the hallway, and made these speech bubbles of what Flat Stanley said about their vacations. A week or so later, I was talking to the teacher, the only teacher of color in the school.
“Did you have a chance to see your daughter’s Flat Stanley speech bubbles?”
“Oh, yeah, yeah, ‘I love swimming.'”
“No, did you read all of them?”
I looked at what they said — “I love swimming,” “Florida is awesome,” “I believe in black people!!!!!” And the last one was with lots of exclamation points.
We had also went to Birmingham – to the 16th Street Church and the Civil Rights Institute. What my daughter wrote was completely tied to what we were talking about at home It mattered to me that she used the word ‘believe’ because it just felt very reflective of her, and the way that she’s hearing what we’re doing.
We were on vacation sitting down to dinner when I got the email. I showed it to my husband and I think the kids were being crazy at that moment. We were having spaghetti and there was spaghetti all over the place. He was like, “Mom got exciting news. She has the opportunity to do work that’s really important.” We talk very often about St. Louis and we use the term racial equity. I don’t know that they fully understand that, but the thing that we talk most about is segregation and what’s fair and not fair based on where people live and what opportunities they have or don’t have. That’s sort of the most four-year-old and six-year-old level we can get. My kids have gone to different protests and marches, and they’ve been very involved in our Black Lives Matter signs. Our connection to the city and the importance of showing up in different ways is not a new thing. This was presented to them as, “Mom has the opportunity to do something exciting and help with the other things that we’ve talked a lot about and that we care a lot about.”
There are many people in my more white, suburban communities who don’t think I’m a likely suspect for somebody who is often engaged in racial equity work.
There are many people in my more white, suburban communities who don’t think I’m a likely suspect for somebody who is often engaged in racial equity work. I don’t feel like I have a really long proven track record in St. Louis. I’m relatively new to St. Louis. I also can’t say, “Oh, well, this is a natural step because I used to work on XYZ board or I worked at this organization so therefore I would be somebody that you would like.” Elections when you’re forming a board are usually like, “We need a strong HR person or a finance person.” I didn’t fit any of those buckets. But I could be seen as unusual in terms of who’s been doing a lot of the work, who is engaged, and what communities are touched and represented. My experience with We Stories has been that there’s a large amount of interest and potential engagement from families like mine.