Justice tales

I woke up in New York City Sunday morning, and took to channel surfing while brewing a lovely bit of hotel room coffee. First I stumbled on Bob Schieffer delivering his customary end of show remarks for “Face the Nation” on CBS — this week sharing some very personal pearls we’d all do well to remember as a noisy world amplifies more of our differences than similarities. Think humility, civility and appreciation for the wonders all around us.

Then Melissa Harris-Perry — an author, professor of political science at Tulane University and founding director of the Anna Julia Cooper Project on Gender, Race, and Politics in the South — who hosts a weekend morning show on MSNBC.  Harris-Perry opened a marvelous riff on the role of arts in society by discussing President Obama’s recent White House screening of the film “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

Soon she was quoting John F. Kennedy, sharing works by a Utah artist who blends paint with politics and putting a new face on the Jesus so often depicted with white skin and something of an overarching glow. All in the service of supporting art’s role in engaging citizens in dialogue. All powerful stuff — especially during a weekend filled with both Passover and Easter celebrations.

Things took a decidedly whimsical turn once I left my hotel room headed for Theatre Row on 42nd Street. People carrying Easter baskets turned up on the subway every now and then, but it was the gentlemen sporting tall rabbit ears that really grabbed my attention. If I was a rabbit, I’d surely be crying foul.

I passed banners for lots of events with a justice twist while walking from subway stop to theater, which reminded me that justice tales are on the horizon back home as well — as the South Mountain Community College Storytelling Institute concludes its annual “Folktales for Grownups” series Wed, April 11 with “The Jury’s Out: Tales of Justice.”

I’m told the event features “performances that spotlight time-honored folktales about justice from cultures around the world.” The SMCC Storytelling Institute notes that its storytelling programs “often contain sophisticated themes and content, and are suitable for both adults and young people.”

“The Jury’s Out: Tales of Justice” starts at 6:30pm on April 11, and latecomers aren’t seated — so get to the SMCC Studio Theatre (located at 7050 S. 24th St. in Phoenix) with time to spare. It features storytellers Sandy Oglesby, Kelly Davis, Harriet Cole, Mark Compton, Sule Wilson and KT Threatt.  Also Liz Warren, director of the Storytelling Institute, in emcee mode.

For those of you eager to explore justice-related themes with your children, I’ve included a sampling of books you might enjoy — many by author Margaret Read MacDonald, Ph.D., who has more than 30 years experience as a children’s librarian. Best to start exploring justice tales when your children are young lest they learn too late to care about such things.

— Lynn

Coming up: From lullaby to lion

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