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  • Something Happened In Our Park: Standing Together After Gun Violence

Something Happened In Our Park: Standing Together After Gun Violence

something happened in our park

I think a lot of us are looking for books we can use to inform and encourage discussion about injustice in our society today.  We watch helplessly as young black men's lives are lost:   Tamir Rice in Cleveland, Brown in Ferguson, Eric Garner in New York, Freddie Gray in Baltimore and on and on.   Something is wrong.  Something needs to change.

Some of that change can begin with the adults and some of it can begin with seeds planted with our children.  It's so important that we all learn to value and respect each other regardless of race, religion, nationality... however we are different from one another.

This is the story of two families living side by side in homes in the same town.  In this story a young black man has been shot by the local police.  The children in these families have heard about the shooting and now they are at home in their own houses, with their own families and they are asking questions.  They are trying to understand the what and the why of this injustice.  One child is Josh, a young black boy and the other is Emma,  a young white girl.

The story begins inside the Emma's home as she asks questions of her parents.  "Why did they shoot that man?"  This is Emma's first question and it swings the door wide to a conversation about slavery,  prejudice, brown skin,  and patterns of behavior and belief.  Emma's mom says the police made a mistake.  Emma's sister Liz disagrees. "The cops shot him because he was Black."

Good questions are asked

"Who are White people?"   Who are Black people?

"Did our family do those bad things a long time ago?" asked Emma.

Next door, Josh is turns to his parents asking the important question, "Can police go to jail?"  His mother and father talk about whether or not the police will stick up for each other and keep their fellow officer out of jail.  Josh's brother, Malcolm answers, "Cops stick up for each other."

The conversations in the homes matter to Emma and Josh and this book is written to encourage conversations in homes all across the U.S.A.  Turns out according to one survey cited at the back of the book, 70% of mothers say they don't bring up the issue of racism with their children.

Josh and Emma attend the same school and when a new student comes to their school from a foreign country, they remember the conversations they've had and they choose to act on what their parents taught them.  They make room for someone who just might be a new good friend.

This book is an insistent approach to discussing racial injustice, prejudice and inequality in our own neighborhoods.  It's goal is to encourage discussion at home.  In my opinion this would have been more successful had the authors chosen not to describe all white families as being responsible for prejudice against black families in the previous centuries.  There were families who offered help to those escaping through the Underground Railroad.  There were Abolitionists and there were college students who drove to the South and lost their lives trying to get black Americans on the voting rolls.  Just as no one should see all black men as dangerous, no one should see every white person as having held prejudice.---from the publisher

40 pages 978-1433835216 Ages 8-12

Keywords: gun violence, prejudice, racism, African American and Black fiction, community, violence, empowerment, 8 year old, 9 year old, 10 year old, 11 year old, 12 year old, difficult topics, diversity

The backmatter includes a Note to Parents and Caregivers that offers guidance and suggestions on how to talk to their children about:

a.  Countering Racism and Racial Injustice with Children

b.  How to Address Racial Bias with Children

c.  Vocabulary Words and Child-Friendly Definitions

d.  Sample Parent-Child Questions and Answers

e.  Sample Dialogues of Special Relevance for African American Families

Additional resources are also included.

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