Giving me strength to be vulnerable with you all are the words of Brene Brown, "When we find the courage to share our experiences and the compassion to hear others tell their stories, we force shame out of hiding and end the silence."
When I first learned about the idea for We Stories I was hooked. As an educator, predominately a middle school language arts teacher, the idea of using diverse children’s literature as a gateway to important conversations spoke to my heart.
I grew up here in a predominately white suburb of St. Louis where neither the children nor the adults had the tools to understand, unpack, or analyze privilege, let alone bridge racial divides.
Even though I later taught in diverse schools and thought of myself as social justice-minded, I had never really deeply examined my own racial identity. I focused on learning about others, but it was not until shortly before I had my son that I really started to explore the impact of my whiteness and the implications of my privilege.
Although my son, only 15 months at the time, was not yet conversational, I knew that I needed resources. I needed tools and a community to not only help me on my journey, but to support me as a parent in counteracting the overwhelmingly biased messages I knew my child would receive, especially in an area as segregated as ours.
The most surprising aspect for me has been how far this experience has extended beyond the books for my family. I’m acutely aware of the lack of diversity we could experience in our daily lives where we live, and so we started taking small, but intentional actions by choosing toys, story times, and extracurriculars with racial diversity so that our children would have a different sense of “normal” than if we only stuck to our neighborhood.
And then somewhere along the way, while I was reading books and attending just about every single We Stories opportunity offered, I accidentally became an activist.
Now, I’m showing up at meetings, presentations and forums. I’m working with a newly-formed equity group and serving on a curriculum advisory committee in my children’s district. I’m hosting political fundraisers.
I’m more civically engaged than ever, and friends are saying that they are watching what I’m doing and reading what I’m posting, and they are grateful that I’m authentically standing up and sharing with others about issues of importance. All these aspects that are so much a part of me, have been discovered and nurtured because of We Stories.
We Stories has provided me with the space and the support to push me in new directions. I’ve never felt more empowered or more hopeful for our region. I gather strength from the like-minded families that are working for change, and I gather strength from people like you who understand how our region has become so divided, the cost of those divides for us all, and the role you can play in helping bring about change.
I’m so proud to have been a part of this community since its inception and to serve on the board. Families, like mine, are rejecting the status quo and choosing to improve and heal our region by engaging with this community. This movement is growing in power and size, and we need you.