No Justice. [No Action.] No Peace.

Caren: “No jus­tice. No peace.” This sum­mer, mil­lions of peo­ple – young, old and from all back­grounds — protest­ed police bru­tal­i­ty and sys­temic racism, all dur­ing an his­toric pan­dem­ic. Ellie Rosch­er and I live in Min­neapo­lis, Min­neso­ta, not far from where George Floyd was mur­dered by a Min­neapo­lis police offi­cer and close to the epi­cen­ter of march­es and protests. With the school year begin­ning, in-per­son or online, what is our respon­si­bil­i­ty to help chil­dren process these his­toric times and par­tic­i­pate in peace­ful change?

John Lewis
John Lewis, Civ­il Rights leader and Con­gress­man, Feb 21, 1940 – Jul 17, 2020

John Lewis, the late Civ­il Rights leader and Con­gress­man, can guide us. On the day of his funer­al, July 30, 2020, the New York Times pub­lished a let­ter writ­ten by Lewis before his death. In it, John Lewis chal­lenged each gen­er­a­tion to ful­fill its moral and demo­c­ra­t­ic oblig­a­tions to speak out against injustice:

When you see some­thing that is not right, you must say some­thing. You must do some­thing. Democ­ra­cy is not a state. It is an act, and each gen­er­a­tion must do its part to help build what we called the Beloved Com­mu­ni­ty, a nation and world soci­ety at peace with itself. 

We teach med­i­ta­tion to our chil­dren. We encour­age kind­ness, empa­thy, com­pas­sion. We cre­ate wel­com­ing cir­cles, so chil­dren have a sense of belong­ing. All of these offer a way into peace. We also must help our chil­dren learn to “stand up, speak up, speak out,” and take action for peace.

Peaceful Fights for Equal RightsPeace­ful Fights for Equal Rights by Rob Sanders and illus­trat­ed by Jared Andrew Schorr, (pub­lished by Simon & Schus­ter Books for Young Read­ers) is an alpha­bet primer of ener­gy, vocab­u­lary, sym­bol­ism, and actions that offers young cit­i­zens the many ways to speak out for what they believe is right. From “Assem­ble. Take Action.” “Cre­ate allies.” “Lis­ten. Learn. Lead. Light a can­dle. Write a let­ter. Pass laws” to “Shake a hand. Lend a hand. Have hope. Be hope.” this col­or­ful pic­ture book embod­ies John Lewis’s mes­sage. In addi­tion, the back mat­ter of Peace­ful Fights for Equal Rights gives us a brief his­to­ry of the Civ­il Rights move­ment in the 1960s and a glos­sary of protest words with their def­i­n­i­tions. From begin­ning to end, Peace­ful Fights for Equal Rights pro­vides a dis­cus­sion for adults and chil­dren — yes, even young chil­dren — that speaks to John Lewis’s call to action: “When you see some­thing that is not right, you must say some­thing. You must do something.”

Peaceful Fights for Equal Rights
illus­tra­tion copy­right © Jared Andrew Schorr, from Peace­ful Fights for Equal Rights, writ­ten by Rob Sanders, pub­lished by Simon & Schus­ter, 2018

After I read Peace­ful Fights for Equal Rights, images of young activists came to mind: Pakistan’s Malala Yousafzai’s clar­i­on call for edu­ca­tion for girls; Sweden’s Gre­ta Thun­berg ral­ly­ing the world to address cli­mate cri­sis; Emma Gon­za­lez and stu­dents from Mar­jo­ry Stone­man Dou­glas High School who spoke out loud­ly for gun con­trol after the shoot­ing at their school, and the videos of count­less young peo­ple protest­ing in the streets for jus­tice in the wake of George Floyd’s mur­der. Young peo­ple are our hope. Let’s teach our chil­dren, and each oth­er, to take action for jus­tice, peace, and our democracy.

Malala Yousafzai, Greta Thunberg, Emma Gonzalez

Protest after George Floyd murder
Peace­ful protest after the mur­der of George Floyd, pho­to by Catie Viox, Cincin­nati City Beat, post­ed 6/5/2020

Going Deep­er: Caren and Ellie

Teach­ing civics is more than learn­ing about gov­ern­ment and his­to­ry — or should be. How can we help our stu­dents become more informed, engaged young cit­i­zens? How do we, as edu­ca­tors, help our young peo­ple fill their tool­box­es for democ­ra­cy? Pyne Arts Mag­net School in Low­ell, Mass­a­chu­setts, explores a way. From the Cen­ter for Doc­u­men­tary Stud­ies at Duke Uni­ver­si­ty, Scene On Radio’s pro­duc­er and host John Biewen with Chen­jerai Kumanyi­ka, Assis­tant Pro­fes­sor of Jour­nal­ism and Media Stud­ies at Rut­gers Uni­ver­si­ty, dis­cuss the role of civics in schools and intro­duce the 8th graders at Pyne Arts Mag­net School through Ben James’s reporting.

Lis­ten to “S4 E10: Schooled for Democ­ra­cy as 8th graders build con­sen­sus and com­mit to a soci­etal prob­lem that is impor­tant to them — youth men­tal health. Stu­dents research the issue, pre­pare an action plan, prac­tice their per­sua­sive argu­ment, exe­cute their plan, then take their expe­ri­ence to Civics Day at Boston’s State Capi­tol to win first prize. It’s an inspir­ing sto­ry of hands-on democ­ra­cy that teach­es kids they real­ly can make a difference

Ques­tions Toward Action: Caren and Ellie

How can chil­dren of all ages begin to fill their tool­box­es for democ­ra­cy? How can we help them rec­og­nize traits that inspires demo­c­ra­t­ic prin­ci­ples, such as fair­ness, hon­esty, respon­si­bil­i­ty? How do we best teach young peo­ple how the Amer­i­can gov­ern­ment works? How do we pre­pare our pre­cious chil­dren to become engaged cit­i­zens and take peace­ful action to cre­ate “a more per­fect union” and a bet­ter world?  There are plen­ty of resources and inspi­ra­tional lead­ers to guide us. “No jus­tice. No peace”? Let’s expand the call to:

No jus­tice.

No under­stand­ing.

No action.

No heal­ing.

No peace.


Preach­ing to the Chick­ens: The Sto­ry of Young John Lewis, by Jabari Asim and E.B. Lewis, Nan­cy Paulsen Books / Pen­guin Ran­dom House, 2016

I Am Malala: How One Girl Stood Up for Edu­ca­tion and Changed the World, by Malala Yousafzai and Patri­cia McCormick, Lit­tle Brown, 2016

Our House Is On Fire: Gre­ta Thunberg’s Call to Save the Plan­et, by Jeanette Win­ter, Beach Lane Books, 2019

Nev­er Again: The Park­land Shoot­ing and the Teen Activists Lead­ing the Move­ment, by Eric Braun, Lern­er Pub­li­ca­tions, 2019


For each Peace-olo­gy post, Caren and Ellie part­ner to learn and explore the mean­ing of peace by talk­ing and lis­ten­ing with each oth­er. If you’d like to share your ideas about peace, books, and chil­dren, please share your com­ments here, or vis­it our websites.

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April Halprin Wayland
3 years ago

Wow! Thank you for high­light­ing so many impor­tant and engag­ing resources.