Little Sun People in New York City is stepping beyond societal norms and delving deep into the topic of race with their young students.
BBC recently did a feature report showcasing the unique way the school functions in regards to teaching their little ones about racial awareness.
“I love myself, I love myself!” are some of the mantras the small children at Little Sun People speak aloud to themselves. They’re encouraged to practice speaking more loving internal dialogue and tell themselves features they love about themselves in the mirror.
“My little two-year-olds, my little three-year-olds and four-year-olds start to get the message at these young ages to have lighter and whiter skin and to have lighter and whiter hair or for their eyes to be blue,” said Little Sun People’s founder Fela Barclift. “I want them to know your skin is beautiful, your hair is perfect, your eyes are just the way they should be. You have a long and glorious ancestry that goes back thousands and thousands of years and didn’t just start 500 or 600 years ago.”
Little Sun People is a predominately African American institution and focuses on Afrocentric education. Most of the curriculum is based around empowering minorities and people of color to fully accept themselves for who they are.
“We are not afraid of using the word ‘race’. And when you’re two, three, four or five, we really have to work super hard in order to help explain some of the things that have happened to us,” said Barclift.
While the school is primarily composed of African-Americans, children of all races are eligible to attend Little Sun People.
“Every month we choose a theme and then we go through some aspect of the African or the indigenous experience. We will not mention or talk about Columbus. That’s the kind of thing that’s really important to us,” said Barclift.
Little Sun People’s founder went on to pose a question that she tends to base her teaching around.
“What are the difference pieces of information that can help them to get a bigger, broader picture of who they are and who they are in relationship to the world?” ponders Barclift.
While Barclift strongly believes this type of teaching gives her students a more reflective view of the world and its people as a whole, Little Sun People has drawn some critics. Skeptics believe these types of schools don’t promote integration in modern society.
“To have a school like this is very hard for people to get on board or to agree that it’s okay,” said Barclift. “If people agree that this is okay, then that means there has to be a conversation about ‘Why is it okay?’ or ‘Why is it needed?’ or ‘Why do we have something like this period?’ instead of us all being able to be together in the great melting pot of the United States,” said Barclift.
But more segregation is the complete opposite of what Barclift says she’s going for. She wants the students at Little Sun People to honor their ancestry, especially if that means acknowledging the hardship so many people of color have been through in ways the history books do not teach.
“It’s because we are a suffering people and this is an opportunity for us to offer something to our little ones that says, ‘You know what? You’re really good. Don’t believe those messages because they’re not accurate,” said Barclift.