Drag Queen Story Hour sparkles for Seattle families

Aleksa Manila

Aleksa Manila. Photo: Joshua Huston

Once upon a time at the Seattle Children’s Festival, drag queen Aleksa Manila read books to children. Perched regally atop a cozy nest of blankets and wrapped in a glamorous fuchsia kimono, Manila inspired awe in each child who toddled into the room. Coco, age 4, was moonstruck by Manila’s hot-pink hair adorned with magenta flowers.

“Are those flowers real?” said Coco skeptically.

Fake,” whispered Manila, with a heavy-lashed wink and a smile. “Now who wants to pick our first story?” A field of tiny hands sprouted up and story time began with a reading of Manila’s favorite children’s book, “My Princess Boy.”

Written by Seattle author Cheryl Kilodavis to help explain her son Dyson’s fondness for “pretty things” to teachers and classmates, the book inspired a movement of acceptance for children who feel misunderstood. “I love my Princess Boy. When we go shopping, he is the happiest when looking at girls’ clothes. But when he says he wants to buy a pink bag or a sparkly dress, people stare at him,” Kilodavis writes.

“The Princess Boy’s story is very close to my own story,” says Manila, who began to question her gender identity while attending Catholic elementary school in the Philippines. “I remember being in the boys section and staring at the girls section, wondering, ‘Should I be there?’”

For the past five years, Manila has hosted Drag Queen Story Hour for families all over Seattle. Check the website for upcoming events and appearances.

READ THE FULL STORY ON SEATTLE’S CHILD 

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Seattle’s Child Magazine: November Issue

Excited to share a few gems from my first issue as Editor of Seattle’s Child magazine! Proud to feature artist and activist Aleksa Manila on the cover talking about her Drag Queen Story Hour! We also have an infants at work program feature, a Seattle reggae artist profile and tips on how to avoid food waste! Pick up a copy at your local Seattle library or email Issy at ibelzil@seattleschild.com to subscribe.

Design by Art Director Boo Davis. Photos by Joshua Huston. Find all the stories online by clicking here.

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Kindergarten or Rosh Hashanah? Seattle Families Wish They Didn’t Have to Choose

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“While Seattle parents take photos, shed tears and send their kids off for the first day of kindergarten on Monday (Sept. 10), many Jewish families will be forced to choose between meeting an educational milestone and observing Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year.

“It is truly one of the holiest days of the year that people spend with their family and community in synagogue,” says Rabbi Allison Flash, Assistant Director of Education at Temple Beth Am. “Starting kindergarten on Rosh Hashanah is equivalent to kids starting it on Easter Sunday.”

Rosh Hashanah marks the beginning of a 10-day period of prayer, introspection and repentance known as the High Holy Days. Jewish communities attend prayer services in synagogue and hear the blowing of an ancient instrument called a shofar, which is made from a kosher ram’s horn. Afterward, families and friends gather to eat a round challah (representing the cycle of the seasons/eternal life), and taste apples and honey (signifying hope for a sweet new year).

The Jewish population in Seattle grew by 70 percent between 2001 and 2014, according to research from Brandeis University in collaboration with the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle. The 2014 study estimated that the Jewish community was composed of around 63,400 Jewish individuals. An estimated 13,800 people in that total were Jewish children (aged 17 and under). The population has continued to increase as rapid job growth in the science, tech and engineering industries attracts more well-educated and ideologically progressive Jewish millennials to Seattle.

Jackie Kleinstein, a Seattle mother of two, looked forward to watching her daughter start kindergarten on the same day as her peers at John Rogers Elementary. But when she learned that the family would have to choose between a quintessential coming-of-age experience and observing one of the most significant Jewish holidays, there was no question.

“It’s just what you do,” says Kleinstein. “My daughter loves going to synagogue for the High Holy days, she looks forward to it every year.”

The Kleinstein family felt that honoring their Jewish heritage was especially important in the current political climate. The number of reported anti-Semitic incidents in the United States surged 57 percent in 2017, according to an annual report by the Anti-Defamation League. About one-third of Seattle Jews reported some type of anti-Semitic experience in 2015, mostly in the form of Jewish “jokes,” use of stereotypes or comments related to Israel.

“In these times, I think it’s more important than ever to be confident and secure in celebrating our Jewish traditions,” says Kleinstein.

READ THE FULL SEATTLE’S CHILD MAGAZINE STORY HERE

Valuing Difference

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Photo: Joshua Huston

“By the time Jackie Moffitt was 16, he had transferred schools four times and was longing for a community where he could be accepted as his authentic self — an autistic person. “Autistic people are very dehumanized in our society,” says Moffitt. “They are perceived as being incapable of emotions. People are surprised that people with autism can understand humor or love. They assume that having autism means a lack of desire to connect with other human beings.”

Seeking this connection, Moffitt discovered Theater of Possibility (TOP), a theater arts program based in Seattle and Bellevue serving kids who are “quirky, spirited, or shy or who may have Asperger’s, autism, ADHD, or other learning or ability differences,” as the demographic is described on the TOP website.

Through theater games, improvisation, and role-playing led by TOP Director Lauren Goldman Marshall, Moffitt learned to embrace many of his personal attributes like extreme extroversion and abstract thinking that he’d previously felt pressure to repress.

“A lot of times for kids with disabilities their whole life is about people telling them what they’re deficient in,” says Marshall, who co-founded TOP in the years after her own daughter was diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum. “With TOP, they are here first and foremost to have fun and create theater together. I’m definitely highlighting relationship skills, but it’s brought in more through the back door. It’s about making kids feel successful.”

Now 21, Moffitt works as a teacher’s assistant at TOP, supporting the next generation of autistic children as they learn and grow while they also reach a level of self-acceptance.

“It’s not just about autistic people needing to learn neurotypical social skills so they can pass in a world that is majority non-autistic people,” says Moffitt. “I think that neurotypical people should also learn how to empathize with autistic people’s perspective and communicate with them on their own terms.”

READ THE FULL STORY IN SEATTLE’S CHILD MAGAZINE

Prescribing Shelter

Popsicle Place

Photos: Andrea Sassenrath

Popsicle Place, located primarily at the Mary’s Place Guest Rooms in South Lake Union and at a Mary’s Place house in Shoreline, gives homeless families with chronically sick kids a place to rest and recuperate. Families get private rooms, or the use of single-family houses that are loaned to the organization. The cost to run Popsicle Place varies by location and need of the families. The organization has received a couple of grants for the program, but primarily the funding comes from the general Mary’s Place budget.

Those who use Popsicle Place services include families with children battling cancer and mothers with babies born premature. The program is currently hosting about nine families but has the capacity to shelter more.

LEARN MORE ABOUT MARY’S PLACE HERE

“Amber Wise never imagined that her 5-year-old son Josiah would one day be diagnosed with leukemia.

‘He was complaining that his legs hurt,’ Wise said. ‘It kept getting worse, and so we took him to the local hospital in Spokane, but they couldn’t figure out what was wrong with him.’

Finally, after running several blood tests, Wise received a call informing her that her son had acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

‘When we found out he had cancer, I felt like I hit the bottom of the barrel,’ Wise said.

At the time, Wise and her family were homeless, struggling to secure stable housing in Moses Lake, a city on the east side of the Cascade Mountains. With the help of a relative, she relocated with her wife and son to Seattle where Josiah could receive the best possible care at Seattle Children’s Hospital.”

Pick up a copy from your local Seattle Real Change vendor! 

 

READ THE FULL ARTICLE IN REAL CHANGE NEWS

Self help: Mockingbird youth are leading advocacy efforts by the Mockingbird Society

Mockingbird Society

Photo: Jerry Davis

“For the young people at The Mockingbird Society who have experienced homelessness and foster care, advocating for the youth of the next generation is imperative.

‘Even as I’m going through this journey of being homeless, I’m teaching, I’m inviting people in and changing people’s lives,’ said Okesha Brandon, a youth advocate. ‘Everyone kind of learns your strengths and people notice, and it builds your confidence. That in itself is a contribution to society.’

Named after the great American novel “To Kill a Mockingbird,” the organization draws inspiration from the book’s narrative.

“The power and promise of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ is in reminding each of us of the untapped potential our most vulnerable citizens hold,” states the organization’s website.

In the seventeen years since its founding, The Mockingbird Society has had a hand in 25 new laws and reform policies to better the lives of young people in Washington state. Mockingbird’s youth programs train young people who have been homeless or in foster care to be their own best advocates. The result? Changes in the policies and perceptions that stand in the way of every child having a safe, stable home and a healthy family.

Mockingbird’s legislative agenda for 2017 is ambitious, but already making an impact.”

READ THE FULL STORY ON REAL CHANGE