When George Floyd was killed in May, it felt like a flashback. Police have killed dozens of Black people in this same exact way, and the victims’ names immediately came to mind — names from a list that is devastating both in length and familiarity. But the response this time was different. Twenty-four hours after Floyd was killed, demonstrations against police brutality erupted in a half-dozen U.S. cities. By the following week, they had taken over the globe.
And what to do with all this social unrest? As a parent, how do you talk to your Black kid about the marches, memorials, silent rallies, toppled monuments, labour strikes, riots, looting, curfews, tear gas and rubber bullets? How to explain to a child, still somewhat insulated by youthful innocence, where all of this was coming from? How to carefully answer the question: Why is the world uprising now?
“Having those conversations with my children was just too much for me to bear alone,” Dr. Rachel Zellars, an assistant professor of social justice and community studies at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, told HuffPost Canada. The protests had quickly taken hold in Nova Scotia, a province already known for racist street checks and documented incidents of police bias. “As a single mother, I needed tools and support to help three teenagers understand what was happening.”
Zellars moved quickly. She enrolled her three kids in the Chicago Freedom School to take an online, non-credit program for youth aged 12 to 17 that would focus on subjects like the history of policing in the US, its connection to mass incarceration and the prison-abolition movement. Calls to “defund the police” were swiftly becoming a popular chorus among demonstrators, and the course would help her kids to contextualize the phrase within a history of abolition advocacy, so they could make sense of what that truly meant.
When her kids finished the program in June, Zellars had an epiphany. “I immediately thought that we...