In the Spring of 2011, a small group of Chicago-based friends shared a meal around a kitchen table, discussing gift ideas for a friend’s new baby. Coming up with a gift that reflected the social justice politics of the family and their community proved to be a difficult task, and through our conversation the idea to create our own, radical version, of a childhood alphabet poster emerged. We all agreed that the language, images, and concepts we use to teach our children provide not only the building blocks for literacy, but also communicate ideas about what is note-worthy and powerful in the world around them. We envisioned a poster in which each letter of the alphabet would be represented by a social justice concept, and so the seeds of the "L is for Liberation Radicalphabet" were planted.
After brainstorming multiple words for each letter, we had an immense list to select from. Through an intentional, dialogic process, we developed some guiding principles. We wanted the poster to celebrate resistance to major forms of oppression, and therefore chose words and phrases like "Disability Justice," "Prison Abolition," and "Immigrant Justice." We set the intention that all of the words included would be representative of the world we want to see, not the oppressions we want to eradicate; hence words like "Fat Positive" and "Consent." We also wanted the poster to be people-centered and inclusive, and thus chose words like "Elders," "Gender Bender," and "Workers." Additionally, we wanted to emphasize a process-oriented approach to social change, and therefore chose words like "Nourish," "Teach," and "Healing."
We wanted the poster to be a collaborative project, so we reached out to artists and activists across the country to help illustrate each concept. In communicating with potential artists, we asked for written proposals and preliminary sketches. These served as springboards for dialogue about the concepts and about how to incorporate an anti-oppression framework into each piece. We tried to make this process reciprocal, working as collaborators with the artists to create something based on overlapping visions. In resistance to a dominant culture that often denies people the right to represent their own lived realities, we wanted the concepts to be illustrated by people who claimed them as part of their identity. We sought out artists who engaged with the ideas behind these letters in their work, relationships, or communities.
Organizing this project has been a collective process of articulating our values, envisioning the kind of world we want to live in, and striving to manifest that vision through our every decision. With the poster fully designed and ready to be printed, our goal is to distribute it in a way that ensures accessibility for individuals, schools, and organizations that incorporate social justice into their work with young people and caregivers. We're running an Indiegogo campaign to defray printing and shipping costs, ensuring that this poster makes it onto the walls of the next generation of world-changers. Our hope is that the Radicalphabet will be used as a springboard for conversations with little ones about ideas of community, resistance, power, and difference.
Click here to add teaching children big ideas about a better world to your GOOD "to-do" list.
This project is part of GOOD's Saturday series Push for Good—our guide to crowdfunding creative progress.