Radical Cram School and Black Lives Matter

It’s been almost 2 years since Radical Cram School dropped. We filmed the first season in December of 2017 and the episodes came out in August 2018. I’d like to think that much of what we see, in the Black Lives Matter protest, the increasing vocalization to support communities of color, and the pride and confidence that we see young people rocking is partially due to the movement we’re all a part of in helping our kids see truth. And Radical Cram School is a part of that movement.

I’m really struck by how quickly this has happened. When we were putting together Radical Cram School three years ago, I learned a lot from the kids. I learned about the term “Blasian” as a social identity for children who see themselves as both Black and Asian. I learned about the term “boy girl” for children who might not see themselves in the boy or girl dichotomy. I learned about the difficulty in talking about intersectionality with children because these insular categories that we find ourselves as adults are still amorphous and forming for children. And more than anything, I learned about the power of listening to young people talk about their experiences.

Rewatching the first episodes of Radical Cram School in the context of the Black Lives Matter movement today, I see many parallels:

  1. Calling out white supremacy where it is. I grew up in a world (i.e., Texas) in which white supremacy was such a deep part of the societal fabric that calling it out was considered rude. And I always felt it was frowned upon to call out racism. But that’s not the case with this movement. Toppling statues of confederate leaders, actively calling out for defunding of the police, screaming about being unapologetically Black. I love it. And I feel that, with the fists in the air, this is exactly what we hoped to inspire in our children, a commitment to call out white supremacy in their world as they saw it.
  2. True intersectionality. Okay. I am okay with the term diversity. It means that things are not all uniform. But, it’s just the first step. Diversity can mean that there is a lot of different people altogether, but usually at the bottom. Their differences are rarely celebrated, just acknowledged. And they are positioned as their singular categorical identities: The Black kid, the Asian kid, etc. But intersectionality recognizes that ALL humans have and live multiple identities, and many of these identities are oppressed in various ways. And oppressions are not equal. Kimberley Crenshaw recognized this in looking at the various oppressions of Black women: Oppressed for being women in a male-dominated Black culture, Oppressed for being Black in a white-dominated women’s right movement. In Radical Cram School, we learned that the children were able to accept each other’s identities and also recognize that the multiple identities came with different baggage and oppressions. And I see this in the Black Lives Matter movement: trans affirming, multigenerational, recognizing of all people’s histories, intolerant of violence (misogyny, socioeconomic class) of any kind. Beautiful.
  3. Today is the day. This has been the hardest for me to deal with. As a professor, I live most of my life in a university setting where papers take months to write and review, research projects takes years, and movements can take decades. But with Radical Cram School, because we followed the children, we were also hip to their scope of time. Do it now. Do it today. Who knows who I will be next year? And so, with the Black Lives Matter demonstrations, the cautious adult in me wonders, why are we doing this now, in the midst of a global pandemic? Why? Because enough is enough. Today is the day that we end police brutality. Today is the day that we voice our anger at white supremacy. Today is the day.
  4. Joy. When I learned about the civil rights era in school, I learned about MLK and his speeches. I learned about Rosa Parks being brave. I learned about Selma, Kent State, the counter protest. I was images of marching, of water hoses and dogs, of violence. But it wasn’t until I started working with the Free Minds, Free People conference that I learned about many of the Black Liberation songs. I learned about the joy that was in those spaces of resistance. And in my own evolution, I learned that community creates joy, love begets art, and in a space where all voices are valued, beauty exists. And so while it’s easy to follow the media narrative of lootings, violence, and endless police brutality, we also see the memorials on the white house wall, the murals dedicated to George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, the dancing, the art, the collective beauty. With Radical Cram School, we tried to connect to children with tools they loved: music, art, puppets, silliness. This focus on creativity is something that I will always love about Kristina Wong’s activism and art and I see so much of it echoed in the movement of today.

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