Aya de Leon

author – activist – faculty – mom

Confederate Flag 2 – How to Talk to Small Children about Racism: Celebrating Bree Newsome

Last night, our family ate dinner with another family, and their kid had seen a video of Bree Newsome taking down the confederate flag. Yesterday, I wrote a satire post for adults about the confederate flag, but I wasn’t sure at first how to explain the anti-flag activism to my daughter. For some time, I have been working with a group of parents in the Bay Area to create Black Lives Matter activism activities for children 0-8. I have been adamant that our work to help them understand racism be developmentally appropriate. I believe they need to be given information about racism where the concepts are broken down to build on concepts they already understand. Our country’s history of anti-black racism and current police violence is terrifying—even to adults. The brutality of these histories and current realities should be handled gently with children. Part of racism in the US for black children has meant that our children don’t get to have a childhood. From early on, we learn that our lot in the US is to be targets of brutality. This is early training in being terrorized. I want to do a slow and gradual job of explaining the brutality of racism to my daughter. And let’s be clear, this is only a recent privilege (segregation meant learning about brutality early for survival). And everybody doesn’t have this privilege. Small children in families of black people who are abused and killed by police learn these lessons early and brutally. The reason I choose to go slow with imparting this information is two-fold:
First, because young children are very literal. For example, if I explain that people with black skin were held in forced servitude or are being targeted by police, black children run the risk of being confused that their skin was the cause of the enslavement or the violence, not racism. My focus is on learning about the inequality in language they can understand. When she’s older and has a clear grasp on the dynamics of mistreatment and exploitation, I can explain that skin color was the pretext for the mistreatment, not the reason for the mistreatment. 
Second of all, I take this approach because I am trying to raise a leader. I don’t want her to be so terrified by information about racism in her early childhood that she develops the idea that she is powerless to change it. I am constructing a narrative of explanation that emphasizes people’s power to transform injustice. And I believe that. Which is why I am attempting to raise a leader. Bree Newsome is a great example of bold leadership.
So here’s the story I wrote–with pictures!

Image result for confederate prate flagA long time ago there was a mean group of pirates. This is a regular pirate flag.  And they took some people prisoner on their ships and sailed far away. And they made them work all the time and didn’t let them play. And didn’t pay them any money. And they wouldn’t let them leave. And they were mean. And the people they were mean to said, this isn’t fair. We’re gonna get out of this. And the fought back and a bunch of them escaped and other people helped them. And they had a big war about it. pirate flagAnd this was the flag that the pirates used in the war. And the pirates lost the war. And the people they had been mean to got the right to be paid and leave if they wanted to. But the mean pirates were mad. Because they didn’t want to do their own work. So they remembered the pirate times as good times, because they got had other people doing all their work for them. But the people who did all the work and didn’t get paid and had pirates being mean to them remembered those times as bad times.

Image result for confederate flagAnd years later, some of the kids and grandkids and great grandkids of the pirates were in charge of some things and they were still flying the pirate flag as if the pirates were still in charge.

 And the kids and grandkids and great grandkids of the people the pirates had been mean to, and their friends all said that’s a flag from bad pirate times, and the pirates lost the war and you don’t get to fly it anymore. Take it down! But the people on the side of the pirates said no, we’ll fly our pirate flag if we want to because it’s our heritage. And the other people said that flag reminds us of meanness and our ancestors being treated bad.
But the people on the pirate side wouldn’t take it down. And they put it on a high high flagpole and they put a lock on it.

Image result for confederate flag protest take it down

Image result for confederate flag protest take it downAnd people were mad and they shouted about it, and wrote articles and sang angry songs and spoke poems, but the flag stayed up.

So a brave woman named Bree Newsome and some of her friends said that’s enough, pirates! And she got her climbing gear, and her tools and she wore her helmet. And her friends helped her. And she was so strong and so brave. https://encrypted-tbn3.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcT-x82mwQSgaAf2U83Ij6ChDhA8gIoIiJlfcd9S7ls3I1JzmkPU Image result for confederate flag protest take it downSo, She climbed to the top of the pole and cut down the flag. And the people cheered. But when she climbed down, the people on the pirate side were so mad, they had some people who work for them take her prisoner. But most people thought she was a hero. And people all over began noticing pirate flags and making people take them down. And the people got Bree Newsome out of jail, and she went around telling everyone why she did it. she said:

As you are admiring my courage in that moment, please remember that this is not, never has been and never should be just about one woman…This is a multi-leader movement. I believe that. I stand by that. I am because we are. I am one of many.

I did it because I am free.


17 comments on “Confederate Flag 2 – How to Talk to Small Children about Racism: Celebrating Bree Newsome

  1. Paci Hammond
    July 6, 2015

    Thanks, Aya! Time to see some more stories with this framework on our shelves in the children’s section of public and school libraries (more work for you!) There are great stories of people working together for justice, or expressing solidarity in the face of injustice, but they are usually about specific historical incidents, i.e. sit-ins, de/segregation, labor movements, Indigenous rights, and all clearly aimed at an older audience. I am often torn when trying to find developmentally-appropriate literature for Kindergartners on these issues.

    • teresatownsell
      July 24, 2016

      I’d be interested, too. I teach second grade. Please, also, contact the NEA (National Education Association) http://www.nea.org/ . The put out a magazine to all of us. Love the pirate flag idea. As teachers, we need help to bring today’s issues past the MLK, Jr. and Rosa Parks story.

  2. Danielle
    July 10, 2015

    This is awesome! Thank you for sharing 🙂

  3. Pingback: Mutha Magazine » AYA DE LEON On How to Talk to Small Children about Racism: Celebrating Bree Newsome

  4. Nina
    July 28, 2015


  5. Susan
    July 29, 2015

    Thanks for this! Any chance you’ll be selling or posting the Black Lives Matter activites for 0-8 year olds that you mention in this post? I’d be very interested in them for my own daughters.

  6. Benjamin Thompson
    August 1, 2015

    Thanks for this. I am not sure it’s best to be so strategic with a slow education. No matter what kids will deduce incorrect assumption as a result of missing context. That’s inevitable even as an adult.

    I just speak plainly and answer questions that they have.

  7. Becky
    August 11, 2015

    Thank you for this wonderful tool for our children.

  8. Pingback: Confederate Flag 2 – How to Talk to Small Children about Racism: Celebrating Bree Newsome | Old Ship DRE

  9. Pingback: Massive List of Books to Help You Talk to Your Kids About Racism and Justice #BlackLivesMatter | Cincomom.com

  10. Pingback: Mutha Magazine » X-Men Sexism: On Talking to Girls About Misogyny—and Women Kicking Ass by AYA DE LEON

  11. Pingback: Empathy: The Antidote to Racism – Just another WordPress site

  12. Pingback: Empathy: The Antidote to Racism (Part II of the Talking Racism with White Kids Series) – Baby Dust Diaries

  13. Gail Burton
    August 20, 2017

    Of course I love you. I found this link through a colleague who I attended an arts activism retreat with. I want to post it in the Facebook groups of my Civil Rights Educators’ Institute teacher cohorts. If you have any other tools to share, please let me know so I can pass them along. Let’s talk soon.

  14. Teresa Townsell
    August 20, 2017

    As in July 2016, I still love this article. Amazing how it keeps being pertinent! Do, please, contact the NEA (National Education Association) http://www.nea.org/; I’d love to see this story spread throughout our nation!

  15. Gini Pritchett
    June 7, 2019

    Our family will be attending a parade tomorrow that will likely include a confederate float. I wanted to tell to my 5-year-old that that’s an ugly flag, but I wasn’t quite sure how to follow it up. The pirate story is perfect! Thanks for the clarity on this issue.

  16. Ed Kennedy
    February 4, 2021

    Wow Aya! You have managed to dumb-down real history to sound-byte pieces of ignorant propaganda. How great that your are indoctrinating kids to hate those who are proud of their heritage. My friend, Tyrone Williams is retired law enforcement (who you teach kids to hate). He is black. He is the proud descendent of a Confederate soldier and is proud of his Confederate Battle Flag. Hate him too? Come on, the US Army segregated black soldiers until 1948. I thought segregation was racism. The US flag flew over a segregated military. Going after it too? Having taught graduate history for years, I do not find the ignorance in your views very surprising. Tell the whole story, not the part you want. Let people use critical reasoning to determine the truth.

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This entry was posted on July 4, 2015 by in Uncategorized.

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Aya wins first place Independent Publisher Awards for UPTOWN THIEF, THE BOSS, THE ACCIDENTAL MISTRESS

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