Securing Justice for All in St. Louis

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Securing Justice for All in St. Louis

On Friday, September 15, a local judge in St. Louis City ruled that Jason Stockley, the former SLMPD officer who killed city resident, Anthony Lamar Smith, would not be found guilty of any charges from the case. As region-wide protests and economic direct actions ensued, Forward through Ferguson co-chairs wrote an open statement to the region—reminding us of the history and tools we embody to catalyze change and inviting regional civic and social organizations to help forward efforts to racial equity and police reform. 

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Parenting in a Time of Protest, Part 1

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Parenting in a Time of Protest, Part 1

Recent events in our community have brought conversations about protest back into the spotlight for many people and families in our region. We have found it valuable and important to use this opportunity to expand the conversation about protest in general. We share these points in hopes that they help to add to the narrative of your family conversations.

1. Protest is Part of Our National Identity – and Always Has Been
Protest has been a part of our national fabric and national identity from the very beginning. Specific acts of protest, from the Boston Tea Party on, lead to the very creation of our nation. Protests have continued to be a part of every single social change and advancement across our national history, including civil rights. Our founding fathers protected the act of protest by including these two important rights in our constitution: the right to “peaceably assemble” and the right to “petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

...read more here

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This is So Much Bigger Than Ourselves

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This is So Much Bigger Than Ourselves

All the weeks are busy but last week was busy in a particular and exciting way; our whole community was alive with activity. When you’re building a small organization or community there’s a long time where you as the founder(s) are the energy source for everything. People can help but ultimately you are fueling that process.

Growth is all about establishing and strengthening coordinated renewable energy centers across the system. Over the last year we’ve been working hard to expand our capacity by establishing these energy centers in the form of volunteer leaders, participant leaders, and now paid staff. Last week was one of the first times we were able to turn all of the lights in the house on…and keep them on.

Don’t get me wrong, last week still took everything we have, but there was so much more generative input than just the two of us. And you could feel it. Twice Laura and I looked at each other and said, “wow, this is amazing.” It is remarkable just how many people have truly committed their resources, talents and time to moving this work forward. We want to share this thrilling and humbling experience with you. Hopefully this piece: a week in We Stories will give you a sense of the kind of electricity that we are fortunate to experience.

A Week in We Stories

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Expanding Our Understanding of Belonging

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Expanding Our Understanding of Belonging

Current events, rhetoric and the immigration ban in particular have placed an outsized and urgent focus on concepts of American-ism and belonging. As you talk to your children about what is happening in our country, we encourage you to continue to consider:

How are we a part of the story?

{Family Conversation Questions} 

  • What is your own family’s history? When and how did you become American?
  • How, as ONE OF MANY stories of America, does your family’s story differ from others?
  • What do our ideals and values say about who we could be as a country?
  • Where do we as a country fall short of these values?
  • How might your family contribute to an America that is welcoming, inclusive, and honors the pain and promise of our histories of immigration and belonging?

Continue READING HERE.

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How one book travel from STL to the President and back

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How one book travel from STL to the President and back

The picture above comes with a remarkable story we can't wait to share.

This October, We Stories was selected (out of 20,000 nominations) to attend South by South Lawn, a first of its kind festival of innovative ideas hosted by the White House.  

We brought with us a copy of President Obama's children's book, "Of Thee I Sing," that had been signed by St. Louis school children and We Stories families and supporters.

It included a note about the community YOU are helping to build - book by book, conversation by conversation, family by family - a community fueled by families and committed to racial equity.  

We were thrilled to bring YOUR hopes to the White House.  

Last week as President Obama prepared to leave office, we received this note from the administration's Chief Digital Officer, Jason Goldman (a St. Louisan!):

"On the day of SxSL I did present the President with your book. He was very touched at receiving such a thoughtful gift.

Today I received your book back and it has been signed by the President. It is his hope that you and the kids would enjoy having it." 

That's President Obama's signature along with the call to "dream big dreams" on the book's title page.  Can you believe it???  We were floored.

At We Stories, we are guided by the belief that stories matter - that by expanding the stories in our life, we expand our vision of the future.  To think that YOUR story, our story, and the story we've yet to tell made it to the desk of the President, is truly remarkable.  Thank YOU for your role in this journey.

With the support of individuals like you, we have grown from an idea to an organization in little over a year.  If the President's call to "dream big dreams" gives you a warm fuzzy, please consider supporting our mission.  Every gift allows us to provide more families with diverse children's books and a life-changing learning and community building experience.  

We are so glad you are part of the We Stories community of dreamers... and doers.

 

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Grateful for Our Sea of Lights

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Grateful for Our Sea of Lights

This year we are most grateful for family. As always we are grateful for our sweet and joyous kids and adoring spouses, for our extended families that give us such support and bring us such warmth, and for friend families who have been an enduring and special part of our lives for years.

This year however we are also grateful for a new family – our We Stories family, now numbering in the thousands. I’ve said it before…it’s hard for me to remember feeling lonely in St. Louis. But at one time I did. Today I am most certainly not.

We are grateful to the We Stories families for their kinship but most of all we are just SO inspired by them.  This morning I went to share yet another news article featuring the good work of a We Stories family (electronic love letters to immigrant families in St. Louis) and I was so struck by just how fortunate we are.

At a time when folks are genuinely grappling with how to be a light in the midst of the dark storm it feels like we are in a sea of candles…representing literally hundreds of people who are taking steps big and small towards a vision of a more equitable St. Louis.

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Seeing Native People As Diverse and Present

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Seeing Native People As Diverse and Present

Thanksgiving is a tricky holiday. While it provides us much needed time to focus on themes of family and gratitude and it also surfaces many problematic narratives related to our history and particularly our treatment of Native American/American Indian people. Much of the dialog and storytelling positions Native people as extinct and historical. Many of the crafts and images offer a very narrow and often stereotypical depiction. And most of the stories reposition “pilgrims” as co-originators/planners of the “original” Thanksgiving feast. Rarely are accurate stories told. Rarely are diverse and multiple portrayals of Native people shared. And rarely is the story of Thanksgiving connected to the present, and in particular, to present day people.

This poses a significant challenge. How can we, in a meaningful way, re-orient the Pilgrim/Indian construction paper pageantry without getting overwhelmed by despair at the depth of our country's fraught history or current challenges?

A lot of research and reading has led us to believe that the most damaging myth we can perpetuate is that Native Americans are all “dead and buried.” So with that in mind we have chosen to push against this myth by highlighting stories and resources that feature Native American children and families set in the present day.

*****
CONSIDER

Consider With Your Children:
Our invitation to you is to first, open up a conversation about what your children know about Native people and second, enhance their current knowledge in ways that help reinforce that Native Americans are PRESENT and DIVERSE. There are many resources below to help support this and the books for this month were selected with this in mind.

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Scratching the Surface of Possibility

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Scratching the Surface of Possibility

One year ago today, we published http://www.westories.org with a mix of jitters, fear, adrenaline, and determination.

We knew from our initial focus groups and the enrollment for our pilot program that we had found some initial interest. But we knew little else. We wanted to believe that the interest of these families represented what was and is possible. We wanted to believe that they would go deep and lean into the discomfort together. We wanted to believe that they could transform their own families experience about race and also become a transformational force for our region. It was a lot to hope for.

At the same time, we knew little about the work that it would take to do the work. The building and developing of a board, the fundraising, the paperwork (!), the databases (!), the constant reanalysis of the theory of change and refinement of logic models, the continual engagement with a dynamic market and region that is both always changing and always staying the same, the investment in developing a business partnership that SOARS, the constant search for champions and partners who believe in what could be and care deeply about racial equity, the curriculum development, the material development, the reading of thousands of children's books (perk!), the listening, the empowering, and all.the.damn,logistics. - all overlaid on a backdrop of heart-breaking racial disparity that harms people every single hour.

A year later, what I can say with confidence is: We've just barely begun to scratch the surface of possibility.

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Talking to Kids About Protesting: 5 Things I Want My Kids to Know

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Talking to Kids About Protesting: 5 Things I Want My Kids to Know

As the protests continue in Charlotte, NC we are seeing the familiar and racially biased messages about protesting surface again. Many have critiqued our media reporting and our national conversation on protesting, pointing out the disparities in language and escalation tactics that are used depending upon the race of the protestors. As a parent, I’m particularly mindful of the potency of the words and images that are widely shared at a time like this. They are impossible to escape.

Instead of shielding my children from these images and conversations I seek to both:

Point out that the way these protestors are treated and talked about is different because of the color of their skin AND expand our conversation and narrative about the act of protesting.                                                 

Here are the things that I want my kids to know

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15 Facts About We Stories That Might Surprise You

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15 Facts About We Stories That Might Surprise You

Welcome to the We Stories' community!

We know you share a passion for our mission to create conversation, change and hope in St. Louis and a more inclusive and equitable future for all.  And, we are so grateful to count YOU among the families ready to make change.

What we do is pretty simple, and really powerful. We provide families with beautiful, compelling picture books that feature diverse characters and address race and racism. We pair the books with monthly, thematic resources that help parents bring the books to life and advance their own learning. And, we foster a supportive community among the participating families through a closed Facebook group and regular in-person events.

In case you’re just joining our journey now, here's a peek into the story behind We Stories:

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