We are the medicine. Connecting, sharing story, crying together, holding hands...Stories continue to help us process, mourn, and imagine new futures.
I first posted the above image of my kids on a recent vacation to Seaside and the corresponding playlist to Instagram May 27. And I have been finding that I need to revisit it regularly. Almost two months later, and as beautiful as this summer is, I am still constantly and keenly aware of the pain we are all in together and how we must mourn in order to move forward.
This morning, I woke up and checked the news. The top story was "Pope Apologizes for 'catastrophic' School Policy in Canada." A few headlines down, I saw "Pope's Apology Doesn't Acknowledge Church's Role as 'Co-Author' of Dark Chapter."
As many of you might know, my great-grandmother and her sisters attended one of these residential schools in the U.S. -- the Morris Industrial School for Indians. They were taken from their mother after their father abandoned the family and left them in a state of deep poverty. Instead of finding a way to support their family unit and to keep them together, the government sought to tear their family apart and to punish them for their identities, their practices, their languages...anything outside of white settler colonial norms.
This particular school was established by the church and then run by the U.S. Office of Indian Affairs. All I have now are a few snippets of stories, the records of my family's names on a Census List showing them at the school, and a death notice when my great-aunt died at the school of typhoid. She was just 13 years old. My great-grandmother was only 5 at the time. And I don't know what kind of apology she would have needed to hear in order to feel healing and repair.
What Do Real Apologies Sound and Feel Like?
The headline "Pope's Apology Doesn't Acknowledge Church's Role as 'Co-Author' of Dark Chapter" has me thinking a lot about apology and repair. It's something I talk about a lot with my students. When we learn anti-racist practices, we know that we will often make mistakes and need to apologize. We also know that there are much deeper repairs that need to be created based on our co-authorship (personal or ancestral) in so many (and continued) dark chapters in our communities.
But we've been realizing that it's difficult to find examples of lived apology -- real examples of apology out in the world for us to follow. Two moments of repair that we study are (1) the Sharpie activism and retitling of Alex Gino's book to Melissa and the and Lizzo's apology and changed song lyrics in "Grrrls." While very contextually different, both examples showcase not only words but actions as important components of healing.
One of the few justice-centered examples of apology I've seen in children's literature takes place in The Arabic Quilt by Aya Khalil and Anait Semirdzhyan. In fact, one of the reasons this book is so powerful (and has also been often challenged and banned, I believe) is because of the apology and repair that takes place in the book.
Co-authorship. Such an interesting word to use. In what ways do we co-author, extend, buy into pieces of white supremacy culture, of settler colonial mindset? And how do we break that contract? What medicines do we have access to or do we hold in our bodies to help us?
We hope you'll check out our "We Are the Medicine" children's story playlist on grief, fear, and healing.
Also, we recommend taking a look at any of the books on our Decolonizing Your Bookshelf booklist as part of your grief and healing processes. Sharing stories is medicine.
The Arabic Quilt will be our first book + reading guide in our new Reading Together subscription debuting in August. We hope you'll check it out and continue to grow with us.