Northborough Library workshop helps families learn about racism

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Wee the People’s Francie Latour, right, joins members of the Millette family in drawing self-portraits, as part of the Family Racism Workshop at Northborough Library on Saturday September 24. (Photo/Maureen Sullivan)

NORTHBOROUGH — Grace and Washburn Millette listened to music by Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong while drawing self-portraits.

They also talked about icebergs and Disney character Doc McStuffins and what it feels like when something is unfair.

They were part of a workshop on racism at the Northborough Free Library on Saturday September 24. Although designed for elementary age children, adults got something out of it too.

“I love it,” said their mother, Amanda Millette. “It’s hard to think about racism. I brought them here so they could learn.

The workshop was facilitated by Francie Latour of Wee the People, a Boston-based social justice project for children ages 4-12. She started by saying that children should not be left out when serious topics such as racism are discussed between adults.

“I think kids are pretty smart,” Latour said. “Children know better than anyone when something is unfair.”

Latour asked the children when they felt they were being treated unfairly. This led to a discussion of what racism means – “when people aren’t treated the same” because of the color of their skin or other factors.

She added that racism is a complex issue: “Sometimes it’s easy to spot, sometimes it’s not.

Northborough Library workshop helps families learn about racism
Wee the People’s Francie Latour talks about racism at a workshop for families held at the Northborough Library on Saturday 24th September. (Photo/Maureen Sullivan)

That’s where icebergs come in. Latour explained that we often identify others by what they can see — the tip of the iceberg — without knowing what’s below the surface.

Latour then read “Our Skin: A First Conversation about Race” by Jessica Ralli and Megan Madison, one of the many books Latour brought for the workshop.

She said our skin color is based on a chemical called melanin, which acts as a natural sunscreen. She said black people like her have more melanin because her ancestors came from Africa, “where it’s nice and really hot.”

She explained that somewhere along the way, white people started saying they were better and smarter than everyone else.

“They kept telling that story for a long, long time,” she said.

Latour said racism grew through rules such as segregation, ideas and “it’s been done for a long time.”

“It could be done on purpose or by mistake,” she said. “Racism still exists.”

It was then that the discussion turned to protests against racism. Latour encouraged his audience to shout “C’est pas bien” and “Black Lives Matter”.

Afterwards, Latour spread out coloring books and markers, and encouraged the public to draw and ask questions about racism.

Latour co-founded Wee the People in 2015 with Tanya Nixon-Silberg. Latour is a racial justice educator, facilitator and children’s book author whose work focuses on race, culture and identity. A mother of three, Latour is currently the Director of the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Inly School, a K-8 Montessori school in Scituate.

For more information about Wee the People, visit https://www.weethepeopleboston.org/.

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