Bringin’ the Joy: Art and Activism Presented by Philly Children’s Movement

by Kate Dolan
Posted 7/16/21

Bringin’ the Joy, a series of activism and art pop-up events happening at several Northwest Philadelphia parks this summer, gives children the space, and the art supplies, to participate in the work for racial justice.

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Bringin’ the Joy: Art and Activism Presented by Philly Children’s Movement

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Bringin’ the Joy, a series of activism and art pop-up events happening at several Northwest Philadelphia parks this summer, gives children the space, and the art supplies, to participate in the work for racial justice.

“There’s a lot of conversation about anti-racism…kids are having these conversations too, they are exposed to these topics,” said Ty Johnson, a core member of the Philly Children’s Movement, the group presenting Bringin’ the Joy. PCM is made up of families and educators who organize to give children opportunities for expression and leadership on topics of racial equality and social change.

“We are learning that a lot of families want to talk about racial injustice, or injustice period, and how do you do that in a way that is age appropriate, in a way that isn’t depressing? How do you do that in a way that’s restorative?” said Johnson. “This summer series allows us to engage in the Northwest community in that way.”

While the activities, such as arts and crafts and face painting, are designed for school-aged children, K - 4th Grade, kids of all ages and all community members are invited.

 There are four events happening in total. The next one is scheduled for July 24 at Cliveden Park at 6415 Musgrave Street. On August 7, Pleasant Park at 6720 Boyer Street will host the event, and the final celebration will take place at Allens Lane Playground at 601 W. Allens Lane on August 21. Bringin’ the Joy kicked off this past weekend at Lovett Park on Germantown Ave. in Mt. Airy.

Johnson, a school leader, who’s served as a teacher, coach and organizer, describes the event’s features as ways to give children confidence and allow them to learn about themselves and their history through artistic, creative and playful means.

“Art-making and conversations around healing, love, peace, respect — which are hallmarks of anti-racism work —  those are things that are true to the Black and indigenous community,” said Johnson. “Expression, art-making, movement, conversations…that’s Bringin’ the Joy.”

The Philly Children’s Movement began in January 2015, originally as the Philly Children’s March, when children, their parents and many others gathered along Germantown Avenue to support the “Black Lives Matter” movement, to call for peace and to honor the memories of Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice and many others who’ve been killed.

Johnson recalled that kids sometimes ask about police brutality, expressing fear for their safety and their neighborhoods.

“When you think about the typical day for a black or brown child, I’m not sure how much they’re focusing on joy and happiness and fun and love and respect,” said Johnson, adding the other feelings and concerns which may take priority. “Stress, survival, safety, communication, trying to think about when to speak and what to say, maybe even avoiding some conversations.”

It’s a reality that Bringin’ the Joy acknowledges and aims to change. Confronting heavy topics with art and joy is part of how PCM wants to share the story without “perpetuating a stigma or a narrative,” said Johnson, who hopes that children will come to understand racial justice work as work of respect and love.

“Me chalking up a sidewalk gives me voice, me drawing love and respect or peace symbols on my face gives me a voice that speaks,” said Johnson, envisioning kids engaging and the impact of such images. “The peace symbol - why is peace important now?”

Bringin’ the Joy will start at 10 a.m. and go until noon at each park. The event is free and light, packaged snacks are provided.

After a long 16 months of quarantine and pandemic restrictions, the event is also celebrating reopening and being outside with others.

“This gives [kids] an opportunity to relax and have fun and again, because we survived the pandemic…,” said Johnson. “This is us taking advantage of the fresh air, chalking up the side walk, celebrating peace, joy and healing.”

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