While Native American Heritage Month is coming to an end, we should continue our learnings about Indigenous peoples and tribes in our country. Alongside my students, I am learning and asking questions every day. I am by no means an expert but would like to share some resources that I have used so far this school year that may be helpful for you, your families, and/or your students to facilitate more conversations about those who lived here first.
The lands in which I live and work in belongs to Duwamish Tribe. You can check Native Land Digital to educate yourself on what Native Lands you occupy.
To celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day in October, my students and I discussed about the city and state that we live in, and how Native people were here before anyone else. We watched a video which explains this crucial part of our United States history in an honest, yet developmentally-appropriate manner. We learned about what a land acknowledgement is and why it is an important practice to do. If you are interested to download and edit my PowerPoint slide to create your own land acknowledgement, you can click here.
In addition, my class talked about whether it was fair or unfair that white people claimed that the lands were theirs and did whatever they could to get what they wanted, even if that meant committing acts of violence. I did not go into the details of the gruesomeness of their actions since my students are still kindergarteners; my job as their teacher is to plant the seeds of knowledge which will grow as they get older and as they gather more information along the way. It is important that I create a safe space in which they feel comfortable sharing their questions, thoughts, and feelings about what is happening or what has happened in the world we live in.
We also read a story called, "We Are Grateful Otsaliheliga" (pronounced oh-jah-LEE-hay-lee-gah) written by Traci Sorell who is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation. The story follows the traditions of the Cherokee people as they say, "Otsaliheliga" throughout the year to express their appreciation for each other and for Mother Earth.
While I do not have Native/Indigenous students in my class, I will keep reading and discussing books with my students that are related to various tribes throughout the year. It it crucial to read multicultural literature that can captures a variety of their lived experiences, not simply about what happened in the past. Colorful Pages has a comprehensive book list for Native American Heritage Month that I will refer back to! By knowing the significance of our neighbors and their histories, there comes a greater understanding of the environment that we share, as well as the people who have been and are being stripped away from their rights, languages, homes, cultures, and traditions.
Growing up, I did not gain an extensive background about Native/Indigenous history and current issues. I remember a time in my white elementary school when we studied the Lewis and Clark Expedition. In middle school, we read "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian," took the mandatory Washington State History course, and I had my first and only Native teacher. There were very few students in my schools who identified as being Native.
When we have a limited understanding about a group of people, that is when we rely on our implicit biases to make us think and feel a certain way about them. There are still more connections that I need to make in order to have a deeper understanding of our indigenous neighbors and the challenges they face today. For the Native/Indigenous individuals that I know, I always admire their grounded and calm perspectives on life and nature. As a daughter of Cambodian refugees, I am grateful for this country that we live in and I will continue my gratitude through my learning and teaching of Native/Indigenous Peoples. If you have any resources or individuals that you would like to connect me with, along with our 2 Khmerican Sisters community, please comment below. Thank you!
On October 23rd, 2020, Over the Moon, the newest animated film directed by Glen Kleane and co-directed by John Kahrs was released on Netflix. It is with pride to know that all of the voice actors are of Asian descent, including Cathy Ang playing the main character, Fei Fei.
The movie follows the clever and ambitious Fei Fei who learns important lessons about herself, life, and family as she embarks on a wondrous journey to the moon. Without giving away too much of the story, I want to share three reasons why you should see this movie!
1. Representation matters!
Being Asian American, I get excited to support projects about and for our communities so that they can succeed and inspire more to be created. There were moments throughout the movie that acknowledges parts of my childhood and Cambodian upbringing:
The joy of having dinner and togetherness with your whole family, including your grandparents, cousins, aunties, and uncles. The endearing and lively personalities and conversations of our elders. The importance of telling stories and remembering our loved ones. Drinking bubble tea and eating mooncakes. Whether you are Asian or not, you can relate to the values of family, love, and food.
2. Important theme of overcoming hardships in life.
As with many children movies, they touch the hearts of all ages. Especially as an adult, you can understand the efforts and perspectives behind each character in the story. Everyone wants to feel loved, listened to, and appreciated. When we experience hardships, we can either choose to stay in the past or to work towards being more open, strong, and accepting.
3. A positive movie during these tough times.
We are about seven months into the COVID-19 pandemic. This movie is heartwarming to watch during this time when we cannot see and be with our families as much as we used to. It also gives positive light on Chinese culture and people. There are beautiful songs, quirky and cute characters, and funny lines that will brighten up your evening.
We hope that you will enjoy watching Over the Moon. Please share it with your loved ones and let us know how the movie resonated with you.
As a Khmer educator, I was extremely excited to hear that the Cambodia Town Film Festival (CTFF) was launching their first ever coloring book on September 13th. This post is dedicated to the efforts made by this organization and the contribution of 20 artists who are celebrating the joy and beauty of Cambodian culture.
This team created 28 pages filled with designs and symbolism that represents parts of who we are, such as our sacred shrines, love for family, food, lotus flowers, dancing, traditional clothing, and more. You can request a free copy here and receive an email with access to download the coloring pages made for all ages!
One of the amazing artists, Krystal M. Chuon, would like to share about the meaning behind her page. We connected with Krystal through Instagram where we were in awe of her watercolor pieces and we were excited to recommend her for this project! Her words will inspire you to get your coloring book today to share with your family, friends, and other people in your community...
"Sereypheap” (សេរីភាព) by Krystal M. Chuon
My coloring page actually has a title – “Sereypheap” (សេរីភាព) which means "freedom" in Khmer. I chose sereypheap because I want those coloring my page to have the freedom to color however they want, in whatever colors they want – the goal being complete freedom of expression.
When I was approached to participate in CTFF's first ever coloring book (Khmer pop art being its theme), it was mentioned that the submissions they received so far were geared more towards the higher school grades. With that information in mind, I wanted to create a piece for the younger school grades – something that would be fun and easy to color in. So, I looked towards cubism pop art for inspiration and noticed the usage of big spaces and various shapes. It greatly helped me in creating my drawing.
Next, I had to think about what I wanted to draw. I knew I wanted to include Khmer imagery, some more recognizable than others. I also wanted kids who see it to be able to recognize these elements and if not, to hopefully spark a discussion with their parents and/or family on what they see and perhaps learn something new in the process.
I ended up incorporating the Bayon stone face, a butterfly, and rumduol flowers.
Bayon stone face: This was the first imagery I pictured to go in my piece. It is one of the more recognizable Khmer imagery in my piece. I’ve always been fascinated by the Bayon faces, from its soft features and decorative Khmer elements.
Butterfly: Although not an imagery that one would associate with Khmer culture, I included it because I personally love butterflies and also, you can find butterflies in Khmer culture – such as with Robam Mehambao (របាំមេអំបៅ). In my research, I also discovered that Cambodia has the largest enclosed butterfly centre in Southeast Asia called, Beanteay Srey Butterfly Centre!
Pka Rumduol (ផ្ការំដួល): Rumduol is the national flower of Cambodia and I try to incorporate it into my art whenever I can. It is a beautiful flower loved for its sweet fragrance and you can find it planted all over Cambodia. I just knew I had to include it into my piece somehow.
What a process it was to create what looks like a simple piece that actually had a lot of thought put into it. I hope that those who choose to color my piece will enjoy it and learn a thing or two in the process!
- Krystal M. Chuon
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Kaitlin Kamalei Brandon is the Founder and Director of Colorful Pages. I am always honored to call her my friend and to see her grow into her role as an anti-racist educator. She dedicates her time and work towards empowering our youth, educators, district leaders, and beyond towards achieving social justice and equity in our school systems. One of her missions is to spread the power of multicultural literature in our homes, schools, curricula, and libraries.
Whether you are a student, educator, parent, family member, librarian or community member, Colorful Pages is THE source to find a vast selection of books to teach and discuss the topics of race, identity, family, community, power, privilege, systems and conflicts stemmed from racism. These are the kind of books that I wish I had read when I was a young girl. I would have felt more seen and heard for who I was, where I came from and where I could go. I would have realized that I had the agency to be a change-maker in our world - that things don't have to be the way they are. Literature provides us with mirrors and windows, yet a majority of children's books are written about characters who are white and animals/other.
Colorful Pages aims to highlight books about people of color and written by people of color. The Spectrum for Multicultural Literature explains the need to have a variety of multicultural literature so that we, especially our students and children, are exposed to more than one type of narrative of a particular individual or group.
As we navigate through our diverse society, it is crucial that we broaden our understanding of one another through our unique stories and experiences. Having a combination of Conversation Books, Exploration Books, and Representation Books is a great way to start and continue this journey.
Colorful Pages provides book reviews, book lists, and author interviews. You can even request a book review or workshop! From holidays to national issues, Colorful Pages is quick to respond and provide resources to inform and push us to have important learnings and conversations through multicultural literature.
My friend, Jackie, shared this beautiful resource with me called, Southeast Asian Art Prints, created by Teo Octavia from the Eastwind Books of Berkeley.
In elementary classrooms, you typically see Alphabet and Number Cards posted on the walls to help students learn their alphabet letter names, letter sounds, and numbers. For each card, there is a picture of an object that starts with that particular letter or number card. However, the pictures are not always culturally responsive.
Why have Q just stand for Queen with a picture of a white queen, when you can have Q stand for QQ ball - an ingredient that your child may get when their family orders bubble tea or makes a homemade dessert?
In addition to your American alphabet and number cards, you can incorporate these Southeast Asian Prints in your classrooms, homes, libraries, etc. to create a sense of familiarity and a spark for conversation among your students and children.
You can browse the prints here and order here.