YOU HOLD ME UP BOOK STUDY
“Balance is not a passive resting place—it takes work, balancing the giving and the taking, the raking out and the putting in.”
― Robin Wall Kimmerer, Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants
After reading YOU HOLD ME UP, contemplate this this quote from Robin Wall Kimmerer. You may want to consider the following prompts as part of your thinking:
Contemplate the idea of balance. In Monique Gray-Smith's book, the characters in the story find balance through holding each other up. What might this mean on an individual level for you? On a cultural level? On a systems level? In your neighborhood? In your home? In your school?
Where are you out of balance in the work of racial justice? Are you overresourced? Underresourced? Do you take up more space than other people or less? How does this relate to your multiple identities? How can you create more balance by understanding your identities and how they hold more or less power, more or less space?
As part of your abolitionist, liberatory, anti-racist, and/or decolonizing practice, what are you giving? What are you taking? What can you give more of? When are you giving too much? When are you taking too much? When might you take more?
As part of your abolitionist, liberatory, anti-racist, and/or decolonizing practice, what do you need to rake out? What do you need to put in?
Social justice work can feel ephemeral -- and it sometimes seems like some people just embody this kind of framing and practice more naturally than others. But the truth is that we can learn and build our capacity for social justice work just like anything else. There are lots of resources that can help us, too.
One such resource is the Learning for Justice Social Justice Standards. Here at Reading Is Resistance, we use these standards as one of the foundations for our work because it demonstrates a building of capacity over time. These standards are organized by grade level (K-2, 3-5, 6-8, 9-12). This is very useful for teachers as a framework for designing an anti-oppression learning community no matter the age of the students. I believe that this is also a useful framework for any person developing their capacity over time. While a K-2 standard may work for a kindergarten student, it can also work for an adult at the beginning of our learning on a particular topic.
Most of us likely have some gaps in our learning and understanding of race and power and how it plays out currently on Turtle Island. This is intentional. Supremacy systems on this land require our unknowing, our disbelief, and a masking of the truth in order to function and thrive. We counter that with knowing, believing, and revealing what is true.
A CLOSER LOOK AT PRACTICE
There's no single solution, resource, tool, or method that can free us from supremacy systems and oppression. However, we can gather materials that are useful in furthering our thinking and deepening our practice. The Learning for Justice Social Justice Standards have been a useful material for me in my own work and in my teaching. When I create a Reading Guide, I read through the focus book first, I reflect on my initial impressions, and then I take a look at the standards. I look through and see what learning from the list is most enriched by the book's story, topic, characters, and situations. Then, I create questions aligned with those standards, along with other justice frameworks that inform my work. Take a look below at the standards that I highlighted in the questions designed for YOU HOLD ME UP. All of the discussion and resources associated with the Reading Guide for this book serve to support readers (young and older) in building their capacity in the four domains: Identity, Diversity, Justice, and Action.
You will see that I've also personalized the list by adding RADICAL IMAGINATION and REFLECTION. I imagine that additional categories will be added as I continue to learn and identify other frameworks and concepts that feel vital to this Reading Is Resistance practice.
How might this framework be useful to you? How might you build it into your practice? What pieces are missing that you'd like to add?