Last night we saw Children of God at the Citadel Theatre. This compelling musical captures the experiences of children who were forced to attend residential schools and the parents who were left behind. This part of Canadian history has been ignored in the history books, hidden even.
After the performance we stayed for a talk back with some of the actors. The moderator opened the time by saying we were in a safe space to share. I felt privileged to be present during the sharing of perspectives from a wide range of cultures and backgrounds. This sharing brought to light some of the pain, grief and guilt that continue to resonate and affect lives.
Clearly, the audience was moved by the performances, the music and the story itself. As was I.
One of the things that struck me is that kids are kids. As teachers, we know this. It doesn’t matter the colour of our skin, or our country of origin, kids are kids. Yet, why is it that adults continually divide themselves into groups? Us against them. Sometimes the groups are based on race, sometimes religion, sometimes socio-economic levels. Regardless, there seems to be an urge to divide and dominate.
And truly, I don’t understand this compulsion. I don’t understand how the colour of one’s skin makes us better or worse than someone else. One of the actors mentioned that he often tried ‘washing out the brown.’ He spoke of living an identity of shame. And given the history of how indigenous people have been treated, it becomes evident where his feelings about his own identity stem from.
No matter who we are, or where our families were originally from, we’re all human. We all occupy the same planet. Kids seem to understand this better than adults. We can take a lesson from them, watching their interactions in schools or on the playground. We can also take a lesson from our own recent past. We cannot – or should not – hide history, no matter how shameful it might be.
Nelson Mandela once said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” Last night, I was educated through a beautiful work of art and the discussion that followed.