The 4th and 5th graders at SRCS created some stellar short plays on issues they were passionate about changing.
I received so many thank you’s after their classes. So many questions about different issues. So many stories of how they are taking agency to create change in their lives. They were fired up.
Then one day after a class, I received a different type of response to the work we were doing. “Can I talk to you Hannah, about something that happened to me that’s about racism?” one of my 5th grade students at SRCS asked me after class.
I nodded and we sat side by side on the edge of the stage. My student shared with me that he had been the target of racist words multiple times. His voice shook as he told me story after story. I listened. When he was done I thanked him for having the courage to share those stories with me. I asked if he had shared this story with anyone else. He replied,
“No. I didn’t think it was ever OK to talk about racism until you taught us it was.”
My heart broke. Some topics are really uncomfortable to talk about. Like racism and sexism. Especially because so much shame can be linked to those topics if we have personal experiences with them. I was beyond grateful to provide this student an opportunity to share his experiences. Though it might be painful, working through our negative experiences is how we heal. Not by covering them up and pushing them down.
After a lengthy conversation I walked this student to the counselor to help him process and get support. As I walked through the muddy field to my car, I was reminded that this is why I do this work. This is why I help young people create a sense of agency and power around making change in this world. This is why I work so hard to normalize having these uncomfortable conversations. So that through a safe-space, we as a community, we as Americans, we as human beings can hear each others stories with empathy. And find inspiration in the discomfort so that we may all heal, grow, and change.