By Cathy Bullock, Zuni, New Mexico, and
Farnosh Family, Cold Spring Harbor High School
Over the past two years, the children and teachers of A:Shiwi Elementary School in Zuni, New Mexico have corresponded with students here at Cold Spring Harbor High School, New York. Together, we have participated in the "Prejudice Project" that Cathy proposed last year to the <iearn.tolerance> conference. The children (ages 6-9) with the help of their teachers Cathy Bullock, Juanita Edaakie, and Pam Tsadiasi, have learned about acts of hatred, not only toward Zuni people, but also toward South Africans during the Apartheid, and toward Jews during the Holocaust and afterwards. Their studies have also included some of the people who have taken a stand against such injustices and tyranny.
Cathy Bullock, Juanita Edaakie,
Pam Tsadiasi, and Students
This year, their elementary school focus was on the dangers of apartheid and the lives of indigenous people. For the first part of the year, students read literature that dealt with apartheid like Journey To Johannesburg by Beverly Naidoo. Through this book, students learned about the passbooks that were necessary for blacks to have in order to move around the country. Here are some of the comments the children made after reading:
"They had to use a pass in South Africa like we use a pass to go to the restroom. Except here nobody stops you or arrests you."
"Many whites didn't like the black South Africans. The black South Africans were there first. Then whites came and started treating them badly and made them have passes. Some white people didn't like Nelson Mandela because he tried to help black people go help black people go to nice homes. He had to go to jail for thirty years"
"The blacks and the whites had separate buses. If blacks rode the white bus, they got yelled at and thrown off."
"The black people had to drink out of different fountains."
"If you didn't have a little passbook, you would go to jail. That's not OK because it wasn't fair because whites didn't have to do that."
After the children read about the passbooks, Juanita, Pam, and Cathy were inspired to do a simulation similar to the traditional "brown-eyes, blue-eyes" simulation made famous by Jane Elliot. Cathy wrote the following describing the simulation:
"We set aside two days, November 4 and 5, for the simulation. On one day, one-half of the class wore a strip of white cloth as a belt and had certain privileges such as being first in line, eating lunch first, getting first choice of activities during self-selection period, and sitting at the front of the class during meetings on the carpet. The other half of the class wore their passbooks around their necks at all times. They were to be the last to do anything. Many areas of the playground were off-limits to them. In the classroom they were allowed to read just certain books and had to read in designated areas. Any infractions resulted in violations which were marked in their passbooks, and they lost five minutes of self-selection time in the afternoon for each violation.
The children knew that their roles would be reversed the following day. We also pointed out that they were very young and that if any part of this activity became too hard for them, we would change it or make it easier. Throughout the day we told the children that we loved them, and we gave them hugs."
After regrouping and discussing the simulation, students had the following comments:
"We had to have passbooks everywhere we went. If we didn't do what the Afrikaaners said, we would get a violation."
"It was sad when we were native south Africans because we had to sit in the back of the room, and we had to stand in the back of the line. We could only play on the merry-go-round and the 'castle'."
"We had to read at tables and not on the floor, or on pillows, or on the couch, or on the rocking chair. We could not go to the listening center."
"We couldn't line up late or we would get a violation."
As another part of their studies dealing with Africa, the children wrote a letter to Nelson Mandela and ended their studies of Africa by performing an African dance at their holiday performance.
The next project the children of A:Shiwi undertook was to join I*EARN's "First Peoples Project," <iearn.fp>. Cathy described the project, "The First People Project has two components, the first of which is the Global Indigenous Art Exchange. Indigenous children, in participating schools, completed artwork relating to their culture over a month ago and mailed their pieces to each of the other groups."
One group of indigenous people who were a part of the project was the Karen people who live along the Thai and Burmese border. The person who helps them participate in the project is Siriluck Hiri-O-tappa. She travels via jeep or elephant to the village of the Karen Tribal children in the northern mountains of Thailand. Siriluck Hiri-O-Tappa wrote to Cathy and her students describing them:
". . . The particular group I'm working with has no exact identification whether they are Burmese or Thai because they illegally crossed the border into Thai territory when the Burmese government tried to wipe away the Karen Army who fought against them. The Thai government put them in a temporary village under the supervision o the Thai Army and the border police. They get free education and health service. They can go to buy things in town but have to carry a special permission."
Cathy and the children became more and more involved with the Karen people as they learned about their living conditions. As Cathy explained, "The living conditions of the Karen Tribal children in the northern mountain regions of Thailand shocked all of us in Zuni who have seen the video. (And, as you know, Zuni is not a well-off community, yet the people here were distressed by the conditions of the children in the video.) The children sleep in a huge dorm that could be better described as a hut than a building. The teacher who travels there once each month from Bangkok, to take teaching supplies, says the wind howls through the huge spaces between each slat in the building. Our school is undertaking a fund-raising project to purchase blankets for the Karen children this month."
One part of the fund-raising project consisted of the Zuni school children creating and selling greeting cards to their community for $1 each. They also hosted a two-hour dance marathon where each member had to contribute $5 to participate. The money they raised, (over $1,000), will help buy blankets to be placed around the Karen children's rooms, like curtains, to stop the wind from blowing in.
Another enriching learning experience the children had this year was reading the book The Christmas Menorahs: How A Town Fought Hate, by Janice Cohn. Cathy wrote us to say, "In December, I read an article in The New York Times entitled, "Menorahs Bloom from Act of Vandalism," which told of vandals breaking the window of a home in the early morning hours to destroy an electric Menorah that had burned all night.
The neighbors rallied around the victimized family by purchasing and displaying every electric Menorah that could be found in communities surrounding their town of Newtown Township, Pennsylvania. By that evening every window in the neighborhood was aglow with Menorahs."
Cathy continued, "This story reminded me of a TV segment I had seen on 'Sunday Morning' about another community that came together to fight acts of hatred and violence. Hate groups in Billings, Montana had broken the window of a Jewish child to destroy his Menorah, spray painted obscenities on the homes of Native American people, and vandalized synagogues. The newspaper in Billings printed full page illustrations of Menorahs which went on display in the windows of 10,000 homes. The painters' union in Billings repainted homes marked by graffiti, and volunteers worked to repair the synagogues. The entire community came together to do battle against intolerance."
The elementary students wrote:
". . . I think children should this book because they should learn not to hate people that are different from them."
"Maybe somebody was jealous about the Menorahs; that's why they broke it."
"I felt sorry for Isaac because some people threw a rock in his window because he was Jewish."
"I liked the part about the two stories inside the story." (The story of Hanukkah and a story about the King of Denmark were incorporated into the book.)
Cathy explains why these efforts at Zuni may be the best way to assure that our tomorrow will not have any of the genocides of the past, "I have been asked by colleagues why I spend so much time teaching children about injustice and intolerance and the opposites, justice and love. I do so because if we do not combat hatred, it can stealthily encroach upon a neighborhood, a community, a state, a country. As Ursula Hegi says in her book, Stones from the River, 'The Nazi came . . . like . . . a thief on sneaky paths. . . .'"
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