Social Justice Story Hour

The monthly Social Justice Story Hour at the Khalid Jabara 'Tikkun Olam' Memorial Library is one of my favorite activities in Tulsa.

The murder of Khalid Jabara by Stanley Majors, who had a history of harassing his Lebanese neighbors (including running over Jabara’s mother with a car), hit B’nai Emunah Preschool close to home. To honor Jabara’s memory and to help young Tulsans internalize values of peace, love and justice, the preschool founded The Khalid Jabara ‘Tikkun Olam’ Memorial Library, which houses hundreds of picture books related to these topics and about “social justice superheroes” such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks.

Each month since September 2017, the library has hosted Social Justice Story Hour, and amazingly, Joss and I have not missed a single time (minus the month it was canceled due to flu season!). Since starting work at TulsaKids a year ago, I’ve tried to take Joss to as many community events as I can fit into our schedule without exhausting us, and if you ask me what some of my favorite events have been this past year, Social Justice Story Hour would be at the top. I don’t cry often, so maybe that’s why I kind of love it when a book, blog post or experience makes me tear up, but the “onion ninjas” (as my geeky Facebook group says) are often hard at work at these events, which are educational, empowering, and sobering because you can’t help but remember the tragedy that spurred the library’s founding.

Each Story Hour is dedicated to a different theme, from death, to immigration, to celebrating Women’s History Month, etc. There is often a guest reader (Rabbi Marc Boone Fitzerman’s reading of “Beautiful Yetta: The Yiddish Chicken” was particularly enjoyable!), and the reading is always followed by an activity.

March’s event celebrating Women’s History Month was extra-special. Tulsa’s first female mayor, Susan Savage, read “Dear Girl” by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Paris Rosenthal. This book is now at the top of my lengthy Books To Buy list, not just because I want to read it to any future daughters I may have, but because I want to read it every day to myself. (“Dear Girl, Keep that arm raised! You have smart things to say!”) Following the reading, we played “Women’s Living History Museum BINGO.” Each child received a Bingo card, and we walked up and down the hallways to meet famous women and learn about their incredible contributions to the world (the famous women were B’nai teachers dressed up, and each had created a display and were surrounded by a few books about the women they represented). Again, I almost cried–and learned about some women, like Olive Little, who I’d never heard of before!

One of the stations was “Woman X”–at this station, a teacher held up a mirror and told each boy, “Do you see the women around you? These are all Women X; they are all powerful, smart, and can change the world.” For girls, they were told these things about themselves as well as the women in their lives.

Another part of Social Justice Story Hour is singing. Each month, one of the songs we sing is the chorus to “I am Light” by India Arie. We sing it in several languages, along with Sign Language. We also sing a song about peace in both Hebrew and Arabic and a Hebrew song about Building the World Through Love. It’s beautiful.

If you’re interested in participating in upcoming Social Justice Story Hours, here is the schedule of upcoming events. (Follow the KJTO Memorial Library on Facebook for updates):

  • April 26, 5:30 p.m.: Social Justice Story Hour: Earth Day! in the B’nai Emunah Community Garden
  • May 17, 5:30 p.m.: Social Justice Story Hour: Exploring Ramadan! In the KJTO Memorial Library at B’nai Emunah
  • June 2, 10:30 a.m.: Social Justice Story Hour: In the Community! At Magic City Books
  • July, TBD: Social Justice Story Hour: Happy Birthday Woody Guthrie! At the Woody Guthrie Center.
Categories: Spaghetti on the Wall