by Zakiya Jackson, President
I had a dream recently where I was in a field full of yellow, green, and purple flowers. The sun was shining bright and we were all wearing white. We – children, babies, adults, family, friends – were enjoying each other and nature and overflowing with peace, laughter, and joy. And our hair sure did look good. 🙂
As I shared this dream with loved ones, we reflected on how this is something we can make happen. This is an attainable dream. There were some elements of the dream that I cannot make happen single-handedly. But, the community I need to bring every detail of the dream into reality already exists. It’s a matter of organizing ourselves and aligning our desires toward the dream if we want to.
I’m so excited to do the work of making beautiful dreams a reality. One of my dreams is that the joy of Black and Brown children will be centered as an ethic in decision-making about policies and practices that impact them. Sometimes people think that means I want to make sure children are constantly entertained. While there is value in being entertained, that is not what I mean by centering joy.
Centering joy means valuing the humanity of children by inviting the fullness of their being into their educational experiences so that they can come alive through their learning and lean into their innate wisdom and inclinations. To put it simply, when we choose to center joy, we ensure that what we are doing allows children to be more free.
It is not always, if ever, simple to turn dreams into reality. The dream where we are dressed in white, for example, is not just about finding a beautiful field of flowers and having a party there. In that field, we were absent of the anxiety and fear that often burden the day-to-day realities of my beloved community. Generally speaking, we don’t just wake up free of the understandable worries that come with being parents, being Black women, being caretakers, and being advocates for liberation.
Similarly, centering the joy of Black and Brown children isn’t simply doing stuff they like. Though we should certainly prioritize learning opportunities in doing things with children that they enjoy. We also must gravitate towards their pain and affirm it, offer healing for it, and help them learn how to recover in ways that ground them and build them up. We also have to come alongside them as they contend with questions to which we as adults don’t have easy answers. That, too, is centering joy.
There are things that we can do to help each other experience joy and abundance. Some of them are individual and have to do with our behaviors towards each other. For example, I can be intentional about affirming the personalities, the growth in skills, and the wisdom of my loved ones. I can also support them in living out their dreams and being the best versions of themselves. This is a way to help build a caring environment in my community. Other things I can do are interdependent and related to improving the systems that impact us daily.
For example, the cure for a toxic work environment is not just self-care. If someone I love finds themselves in a toxic work environment, I can advocate with this loved one for a better working environment. I can help them organize coworkers to demand better. I can help them prepare for a transition. At an even higher systems level, I can ask, what policies can be enforced or created that allow for healthier working environments? Likewise, if the children in my care are being penalized for their race, gender, or citizenship status, I can strategize to improve the systems oppressing them. These, too, are centering joy.
In both of these dreams, I don’t have all the answers as to how they will become reality. In that beautiful field was a little girl who appeared to be my daughter. I do not know how me and this little girl are going to find each other. Perhaps we already have and it’s not yet been revealed to us. Or perhaps she is coming in my future. That’s okay. It is not stressful to me that I haven’t figured out fully what this dream means for me. In due time, I will know. And also with time, more and more of us will come together to demand that Black and Brown children be cherished SOOOOOO much that we prioritize their joy in the decisions we make regarding their lives.
When it comes to centering the joy of Black and Brown children, I know that I know that I know we will do this. We must do this. I will die still doing this work AND we will make advances in our present lifetime. There are too many people with this same dream for us to not make significant progress. Be encouraged, because, as one of our dear partners often says, tomorrow there will be more of us, and today there’s plenty to begin with. I hope you keep dreaming and striving with us because you’re worth it and so are all these precious and beloved children.