It all began in fourth grade, when my political consciousness was awakened by the gifted program’s annual Thanksgiving sock puppet play. The teacher asked us to decorate our socks as Pilgrims and Indians. Only, she designated the brand new socks as Pilgrims, and the older, grayer socks as Indians. Nobody gets away with calling my daddy a dirty sock! So I calmly expressed my displeasure at the obvious racist qualities of using her husband’s gross old socks to represent an entire segment of humanity. Or, really, I shrieked my disapproval and boycotted the play.
The political situation at Casita Elementary settled down. The Holiday Spectacular was a huge success, as we performed both “Silent Night” and “The Dreidel Song.” (I’m not sure Kwanzaa had been invented yet, or if they just didn’t know any Kwanzaa carols. I bet “Have Yourself a Merry Little Day of Collective Work and Responsibility” would be pretty catchy.)
And then it was Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. We drew peace symbols, talked about the civil rights movement, and learned all about the life of the Reverend King. At the end of the day, the teacher asked us to stand up one by one and explain what we’d learned. My turn:
“Martin Luther King was a black man who thought everyone should be equal. So they shot him.”
The teacher flipped. The principal flipped. My parents were called, and my mom flipped. Well, she kind of flipped, but mostly she tried not to laugh. My dad pointed out that what I said was factually true. Then he proceeded to tell this story at every gathering for the next 24 years. I wound up not having to go to detention.
After the fourth grade, the Stameys moved from California to Virginia, and things stayed quiet until I entered the sixth grade. Our school, Parkside Middle, decided to institute a bunch of insanely picky disciplinary rules (like, “No Fun, Ever”). So the Famous Skye and I decided to do something about it.
We took white t-shirts, puffy fabric paints, markers, and a genius slogan of Skye’s invention. We snuck the shirts into our bags, rode the bus to school, and changed into them in the girls’ washroom.
The teachers shrieked, and I found myself in a bit of hot water. That “hot water” being, of course, detention. This time, there was no parental rescue, and precious little parental amusement. Why? Well, it just might have been the slogan:
“Parkside Prison: Don’t Touch Me, the Guards Will Shoot.”
Sure, it's no "Donna Martin Graduates," but it IS pretty darn catchy.