Too Much Thinking Got Me To Thinking
As a father and grandfather, I’m frequently thinking about children. However, my sensitivities have been heightened in the past several days. We saw a wonderful and provocative play by Anna Deavere Smith, Notes From The Field, focusing on the plight of people of color dealing with the realities of bigotry, racism, inequitable treatment and hopelessness in our Land of the “Free.” With children too often the main beneficiaries/victims of our thoughtless inattention or mindless policies. In sharp contrast, we were made aware of the shameful college admissions scandal that highlighted the worst byproducts of wealth, privilege and entitlement. Where arrogant, presumptuous status-hungry parents gamed the admissions systems to get their children into elite colleges and universities, obviously taking the slots of many who’d worked hard and qualified honestly.
The immigration nightmare on our Southern border is another circumstance where the welfare of children and families has been sacrificed for political expediency. Where governance has failed due to lack of experienced, compassionate leadership. Where the children are the tragic victims of adult ignorance, neglect and political posturing. We know we must do better.
And I’m especially sensitive at this time of year, the anniversary of the loss of my younger son, who at age 12 was taken by cancer. He was a great student, loved to read and learn. The fragility of his life and his unrealized dreams are constant reminders of the importance of our adult stewardship. Of young lives, their education, welfare, aspirations and opportunities.
NOTES FROM THE FIELD
This minimalist, but most effective presentation featured four actors who played several roles, highlighting the interviews that Smith had with a diversity of people. Teachers, students, police, parents, psychologists, clergy, et.al. Reflecting on the challenges of coping with bigotry, inequity and often institutionalized racism in their communities. With an emphasis on the school to prison pipeline. Powerful reminders of influences many of us fail to appreciate through our filters of privilege.
Austin’s ZACH Theatre endeavors to create a “community meeting tent” atmosphere to encourage/welcome a diversity of civic discussions. ZACH’s dynamic Producing Artistic Director Dave Steakley reflects, “We strive to be a space where we might envision a more compassionate community, inspire an inclusive dialogue, and have an opportunity to engage with empathy, persons who possess a life experience different from our own. This is not “their problem,” this is our collective responsibility.” By striving for meaningful change in ourselves, we can be the good neighbors who model transformation for our broader community.
Helping “Kate” Be The Best Kate
I love this poster that I encountered in Brooklyn Bridge Park, where Kate’s family were preparing a celebration. I never met Kate, and that suits me just fine. I use her imagined image in my deliberations about our stewardship of young people. Our own and those in the broader community. When we’re considering education, healthcare, equity, social justice, inclusion and economic opportunity. For ALL of our children, no matter their background. I want more children to experience the compassion, friendship, playmates, fun, personal growth and delight that Kate will know.
So, What Can We Do Now?…Rising To Our Occasion
—Stay involved with your children’s and grandchildren’s schools
—Inquire as to their school’s diversity and inclusion programs. Volunteer to support and be of counsel.
—Are there outreach programs for families and parents of minority students?
—Become acquainted with School Board Members and Legislative reps who champion education issues. Meet their assistants, who can often be the best liaisons and gatekeepers for leadership.
—Are after school enrichment programs accessible to all students? Arts, Literacy, Fitness, Sports? Address transportation or cost issues that might limit participation. Great underwriting opportunities.
—Make sure your family discussions include opportunities for constructive civic engagement, especially as regards programs for children.
—Become acquainted with local non-profits that focus on children. Choose at least one with which to share your volunteer time and financial resources. Make your voluntarism a family affair, enabling your children and grandchildren to join your efforts.
—Consider local programs that address immigrant issues. Determine how you might assist.
—Make sure your faith-based affiliation includes a significant program emphasis for children, families and immigrants, where appropriate.
— Become acquainted with the successful student pipeline from pre-school to colleges/universities.
—Inquire with your college-age students as to their experience with diversity and inclusion programs at any level.