When I was a kid there were not books, classes, camps or anything else that taught children about intervention. When I was 10 my Public School class was marched over to E. 25th Street and the East River in New York City to protest the arrival of Nikita Khruschev, the chairman of the Soviet Union, who was going to deliver a speech at the United Nations.
I recall that as I was chanting “Khruschev go home,” a burly, red-cheeked policeman in a great blue winter coat turned to me and asked, “Why are you here?” All I could say was, “Our school brought us here to protest a bad man.” The cop responded, “Ah, he ain’t so bad. You should be in school.”
That was my introduction to activism. I actively took part in a mass action that increased my fear of the Soviet devil. Only years later did I come to understand that activism was more than blindly following the orders of someone but rather personally involving oneself in a mission or cause that had meaning for the individuals involved. A year or so later I came closer when pickets were marching outside the Woolworth’s on 14th Street. In the Southern U.S., Woolworth’s, known for segregated lunch counters, was the target of civil right activists. In New York, the chain was a symbol of American discrimination. I joined the pickets because it seemed right. But I still did not know the meaning of activism. I wish someone had explained it in terms that a child could understand.
This is why I’m glad that 7 Stories Press published A is for Activist by Innosanto Nagara. It’s an illustrated alphabet book that uses this classic teaching format to inspire and inform children. Nagara was born in Jakarta, Indonesia, and is a founding member of the Design Action Collective in Oakland, CA. It is a book worth having and sharing with children for whom activism is endemic to their responsibilities as citizens.
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