Until Covid-19, volunteers with Central Vermont Reading to End Racism were going into elementary school classrooms to read high quality children’s books with students as a way of illuminating and discussing issues of multiculturalism, equity, racism, and immigration. The goal is to raise awareness of the harm racism causes and help develop strategies to actively counter racism in order to create a supportive and welcoming environment for all children.
Now that Central Vermont Reading to End Racism volunteers can no longer go into local schools, the group has created a list of links to children’s books and videos that are free and available online with other people reading the books. Reading to End Racism has many of these links posted now and more resources will be added throughout the year.
If you are a parent, grandparent, or teacher and want to create meaningful home instruction on vital themes while connecting school learning to a love of books and reading, check out the blogspot now so you can look for good books and ideas about how to use them with children. Purchase the books yourself at your local bookstore. Give them as presents and read them aloud. Share the blogspot address with its list of video links on your social media sites with other families and with teachers. Check back regularly to see what has been added, or sign up for email notifications.
The blogspot is divided into books from grades K-3 and 3-5. For each book there is an introduction for teachers and parents, suggested topics for discussion, and a link to the video reading.
The address for the blogspot is http://cvreadingtoendracism.blogspot.com/.
On NPR’s New England News Collaborative it was reported that in July Canada’s Federal Court ruled the United States is no longer a safe place for refugees. The court condemned the treatment of asylum seekers at U.S. detention centers and said the Safe Third Country Agreement between the two countries in now unconstitutional.
The agreement in question says both Canada and the United States are safe for refugees. That means when someone seeks asylum in either country, they have to stay there – the first safe country they arrived in. If they try to cross from one country to the other, they’re immediately sent back. But the Canadian Federal Court ruling would change that. The court states that sending refugees back to the U.S. is a violation of Canada’s human rights charter and says refugees should instead be allowed to pass over the border, possibly impacting migration routes in northern New England.
“A very close ally of ours – another country that’s been known for its human rights protections – is recognizing that this country, the United States, is no longer a safe place for people,” says Erin Jacobson, a professor and director of the immigration clinic at Vermont School. “That we’re not honoring our International and domestic obligations to protect refugees.”
Independent producer Lorne Matalon reported this story and asked both the U.S. Department o Justice and Department of Homeland Security to comment on the Canadian Court’s ruling. The DOJ declined comment; DHS did not repost.
The government of Canada is appealing the Federal Court Ruling. The Safe Third Country Agreement remains in effect until that appeal is settled.
Suddenly You Are Nobody: Vermont Refugees Tell Their Stories by Jared Grange, published by Huntington Graphics in Burlington, gives a broad and vivid picture of Vermont’s refugee communities.
The people we read about came to Vermont from Bhutan, Nepal, Russia, Bosnia, China, Ecuador, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tibet, Vietnam, Mexico, Palestine, China, Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Burundi, and Iraq. Their road here was long and dangerous. Most of them were escaping oppression, persecution and war, yet they still miss their lives in their own countries. They still miss home
Slavojka Avdibegovic, a refugee from Bosnia with her husband Kenan, gives voice to the feelings of others: “You live normal life. Suddenly you are nobody. Yesterday everybody knows you, knows about you. Next day you are no one. You are low, below low.” She is talking about her experience and her husband’s in a UN refugee camp during the Bosnian War after Serbian artillery shells destroyed their apartment and left Kenan a paraplegic. Yet in 1996 they made it to the United States, to Burlington where they made a rich life for themselves, with family and friends, and work they love.
The sections on each country’s refugees begin with an introduction about the country’s history and upheavals – the circumstances that led people to flee and establish new lives among us. Numerous full-color photographs illustrate these moving and courageous stories.
John Lewis, the civil rights leader and Georgia Congressional representative who died in July, believed the fight for immigrant rights was a continuation of the civil rights movement, the next chapter.
In 2013 Lewis was arrested for civil disobedience during a rally to support comprehensive immigration support. In the next two years he continued to show up for immigrant communities, protesting at the Atlanta Airport when the Muslin travel ban went into effect and at the Atlanta Detention Center when the U.S. government separated immigrant parents from their children.
In the months before his death, Lewis encouraged a group of young people, saying, “We need someone who will stand up and speak up and speak out for the people who need help, for people who are being discriminated against. And it doesn’t matter whether they are black, Latino, Asian, Native American, whether they are straight or gay, Muslim, Christian, or Jews. . . .”
“You are a light. You are the light. Never let anyone – any person or any force – dampen, dim, or diminish your light.”