As part of Playhouse Square’s commitment to fighting systemic racism in our community, our education department offers a Social Justice Series, with both in-person and virtual options, as a part of its school performances. This series explores the issues we continue to face as a community and a nation through the perspectives of outstanding artists of color. Titles are intentionally selected to provide age-appropriate offerings spanning kindergarten through the high school level so educators can select the best performance for their classroom.
PSQ EDUCATION DEPT FILMING SOCIAL JUSTICE SHORTS
Social Justice Series performances for the 2023-24 school year include: Kattam and His Tam Tams’ Rhythms of West Africa, 10 Seconds, Social Justice Shorts, The Unauthorized Biography Series, and Show Way, The Musical.
We sat down with Jazmine Monroe, who is a first grade teacher at Noble Elementary in the Cleveland Heights-University Heights school district, to talk about her experiences with the Social Justice Series at Playhouse Square.
Q: How did you first learn about the Social Justice Series at Playhouse Square?
A: It was when the streaming of Black Violin took place. I believe I received an email about this virtual field trip and how Playhouse Square was going to be starting their Social Justice Series. That was how I found out about it.
Q: What shows have you and your students seen – either in-person or virtually – as a part of the Social Justice Series?
A: We’ve streamed Black Violin and Step Afrika. Then we also saw Step Afrika when it was here this past May. Our older students have gone to North, and they’ve streamed Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad.
This year our third, fourth and fifth graders are all going to Show Way. I’m excited because this year we’re also streaming Kattam and His Tam Tams’ Rhythms of West Africa to our entire building with our music teacher as a part of music class. Also, every homeroom will have access to it. We did the same thing with Havana Hop last year, streaming it to our entire building as a part of our Spanish class. I love seeing the season announce every year, and then I go to our specialists to see how we can provide this extra support.
Q: What has the reaction been from your students?
A: They’re always so excited. I just remember when kids came back from Step Afrika, they all were very excited after that one. My window looks out onto the playground, and I could see the kids emulating the steps in their play. As a building we are in the program called AVID, which is a push on making sure you are college and career ready. So, there is an awesome tie there with HBCUs, and what that means, and how you get into the fraternity to do this in. It is an exciting way to connect with what they are learning in a very visual, impactful way.
SHOW WAY, THE MUSICAL - SOCIAL JUSTICE SERIES 23/24
Q: What do you hear from your fellow educators?
A: It provides them with such a great way to dive into a conversation about a subject that can be tricky to navigate with eight, nine, ten-year-olds; but they are able to do it in a way that is not scary or jarring. It’s a way to introduce them to these difficult topics, so that they can start to have those meaningful conversations. They come back to school, and they talk to their teachers about how they saw this thing, relating to other pieces of Black History that they know, and that is also really great.
Q: Why do you think this type of programming is so important?
A: I think we have a generation of children who are highly visual, and their need for sensory input is to experience things. They are so used to getting blasted with visuals all of the time. So when it comes time to teach them things or sit down and have these bigger history lessons, it gets hard to maintain their focus or engagement. Providing them with either the trip to Playhouse Square as the hook into it or the culmination of the lesson, that just really taps into the engagement piece for them.
KATTAM AND HIS TAM-TAMS' RHYTHMS OF WEST AFRICA - SOCIAL JUSTICE SERIES 23/24
Q: What would you say to other educators about the Social Justice Series at Playhouse Square?
A: I always tell people that they need to get their kids to Playhouse Square. In general, the shows are phenomenal, but this series in particular has so much meat to it that it is so good for allowing kids to start to have those conversations. Ultimately, they’re having them anyways. I would much rather have them have the conversation in a safe place with a safe adult who can give them factual information, and not for them to carry that conversation as fourth and fifth graders on the playground spreading their own version of misinformation. Even though it’s tough to have those conversations in that safe classroom space, they can start exploring getting the background information or getting the historical context. It [the Social Justice Series] is such a great way to give them a jumping point – or ending point – when it comes to learning. It is really great and powerful.
10 SECONDS - SOCIAL JUSTICE SERIES 23/24