Annually observed on February 20th, the United Nations’ World Social Justice Day encourages people from all walks of life to examine the various forms of inequity and exploitation that continue to plague our planet, and recommit to working towards their eradication. In specific, it pushes us to tackle the ills of poverty, unemployment, and economic exclusion in our communities, and actively think through solutions to these seemingly intractable problems. Events in support of World Social Justice Day can range from public forums to art installations, political campaigns to film festivals, targeted protests to specific pledges of action from organizations and companies both in and outside of the human rights field.
Here at Know Yourself, we see our investment in young people’s self literacy as part and parcel of a broader vision for global justice and empowerment. We imagine a world in which kids are as if not more fluent than their elders in the workings of the human body, and are accordingly able to not only make healthy choices for themselves, but effectively advocate for their families and extended communities as well. Our dynamic educational program, utilizing storytelling, visual arts, and hands-on science experiments, is designed to foster a new generation of learners and leaders that connect their own well-being to that of the world around them, and celebrate the reciprocal, symbiotic nature of people’s relationships to their neighborhoods, nations, and world at large. In short, we aim not just for personal revolutions in health and self-awareness, but a society-wide transformation too.
One of my favorite aspects of Know Yourself’s monthly Adventure Series is the Loops Crew storyline in our Time Skaters comic books, and its emphasis on young people’s civic engagement as a vehicle through which to effect social change. Our young protagonist, Pinky, and her eclectic crew of skateboarding friends, actively pursue the building of a new skatepark in Oakland, with the explicit intention of creating more access for healthy play and community-building among the city’s youth population.
Representative of the ethnic diversity that’s long been at the core of Oakland’s identity, the Loops Crew models not just cross-cultural collaboration, but the practices of petitioning city council, advocating for the rights of often marginalized groups, and pursuing responsible development with an emphasis on environmental sustainability. While we avoid being preachy or pedantic, choosing instead to centralize engaging, humorous story structure and quirky character development, we are certainly invested in affording our young readers a message of alliance-building and social uplift, demystifying the process of community advocacy, which is so often clouded by cynicism or the notion that only those in power can have a substantive impact on the direction of our planet. By presenting a group of young people successfully working for the benefit of their neighborhood and city, we aim to prove that having fun and making positive change need not be mutually exclusive.
Pinky and the Loops Crew work to get a skate park built by going through all the necessary real-world steps.
Beyond our storyline’s emphasis on social justice, our company prizes and prioritizes the betterment of our community. We are dedicated to hiring locally, and affording opportunities for Oakland writers, editors, illustrators, and educators to make a meaningful living while pursuing their creative passions. Exemplifying a real life Loops Crew of sorts, our company is comprised of a culturally diverse staff that not only comes from a broad range of professional fields, but thrives in bringing their shared knowledge to the process of narrative and product development. As a public benefit corporation, we are also committed to donating five percent of annual post-tax profits to organizations supporting the community, the arts, and education. We invest in Oakland through partnerships with local institutions such as Town Park, Elevate Oakland, First Fridays, the Oakland Girls Softball League, the Oakland Zoo, as well as multiple schools and community centers.
As we celebrate World Social Justice Day, we encourage you–our subscribers and supporters–to reflect on how you’re making a lasting impact in your community, and what skills or passions you can share with those around you, young people especially, to support the emergence of a world where everyone’s needs for health, wellness, meaningful work, and inspiring play are realized.
Raphael Cohen works as a story editor on Know Yourself’s print and digital media. A longtime writer and educator, he brings his passion for the literary arts and young people’s empowerment to his role crafting original narrative and learning content.
His first full-length poetry collection, Scrutinizing Lines, was released in 2007. Several of his more recent articles, highlighting popular musicians’ under-known relationships to the Bay Area, have appeared on 38th Notes, an Oakland-focused arts and culture blog.