Lots of kids make lots of Valentine’s Day cards this time of year, but the cards hung on a display inside the Massachusetts College of Art and Design on Sunday afternoon were different. Among the usual red and pink, hearts and doilies, glitter and paint, were messages in Arabic.
More than 150 adults and children showed up for “To Islam, With Love,” a card-making marathon at the school’s Design and Media Center.
The handmade pieces will be delivered to the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center in Roxbury around Valentine’s Day, along with others mailed in by people who couldn’t attend, said Tanya Nixon-Silberg, co-founder of Wee the People, which organized the event.
Twelve Boston Latin Academy students who study Arabic at the school volunteered their time at the event to help families write the Arabic script. Members of the Arabic program created a handout with “phrases of love” in Arabic as a guide, according to Katie Quackenbush, who teaches Arabic at the school.
“On a very visceral level, kids understand when someone’s not being nice to someone,” said Nixon-Silberg. “If kids can understand fairness, they can understand unfairness, which means they can understand injustice.”
Parents in the room said they felt a duty to make the local Muslim community feel wanted and included, especially given some of the heated rhetoric expressed during Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. And though the children in the room were young — most under 10 years old — their parents and caretakers wanted to get started early, teaching inclusion to the next generation.
“I don’t think they’re ever too young to teach empathy and support for others,” said Lisa Ballew, of Melrose, who brought her two young children to the event.
Her 4-year-old son, Henry, said he was there to make cards for Muslims, “because some people don’t like them and we want to cheer them up.”
From attending rallies to contacting legislators to supporting local nonprofit groups, “every day, we do something” to spread inclusion and stand against Trump’s rhetoric, said Lynn Brown, of Jamaica Plain, who was at the event with her partner and her partner’s nephew Noren. That morning, she said, they had called the office of Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona.
It took a few tries, but 3-year-old Noren carefully used a clothespin to attach his card to the display. Scrawled in marker upon the red heart glued to the white doily, he explained, was a drawing of “a machine for when monkeys get hot.”
Renato Milone and his wife, Monica Cohen, smiled as their 1 1/2-year-old daughter climbed around his shoulders like a jungle gym, blue paint smeared on her face and hands.
“This is beautiful,” he said. “With or without Donald Trump, this should happen every day.”
Nicole Fleming can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.