Kids are awesome. They know it. We know it. And as far as I can tell, it’s our job as grown ups to make sure that they don’t forget it.
There are a lot of tough moments to live through as a kid, and every one of those moments is a chance to learn and grow. Sometimes kids take away the wrong message from these moments, which is very easy to do. Messages like: I won’t be loved if I stand up for myself because it makes other people uncomfortable. Or, My opinion doesn’t matter because I’m just a kid. Or, I didn’t do it right, so I should stop trying. We carry these messages into adulthood and become afraid to live our lives to their fullest. This record is meant to empower kids with the freedom to choose their own thoughts, feelings and emotions – ones that make them feel good, big, strong and important. Because every kid is important.
And I don’t mean that in an “Aw, kids are so cute and ‘important'” way. I mean that these future adults have the power to relieve pain, suffering, injustice and inequality in the world as they grow up and become teachers, doctors, artists and leaders. It’s a complex society we live in with very real challenges like systemic racism, poverty, greed, and all the unfair things that go along with that. Rather than shelter our kids from this storm, let’s give them the proper gear to handle the weather. They’re not afraid to splash in puddles, but they need to be told it’s okay. It’s okay to say what you think, it’s okay to go against the grain, it’s okay to speak up when you think something’s not fair, it’s okay to trust your gut, it’s okay to Be Who You Are. Authenticity is the greatest gift humans can offer the world. When your heart is behind something, you can make anything happen.
Several months ago, my father sent me a bunch of vinyl records that he was tossing out. When they arrived, I picked out the old family copy of Free To Be You & Me and immediately played it for our four year old daughter, Violet. I thought it would be a nostalgic romp through my childhood memories and all the long-ago far-away battles that were being fought back in the 1970’s – old timey concepts like the women’s movement and racial equality. But from the moment the record began to play, I realized these battles are far from over, and that these songs were more relevant than ever! Women and minorities are still underrepresented in politics and the corporate world, we have a new civil rights battle with gay marriage, we have gay kids harming themselves rather than facing an unjust world – not to mention the amped-up gender bias in toy stores! By the time the record was over, I had tears streaming down my cheeks and was moved heart and soul to continue the conversation and add to this canon of songs and spoken word pieces.
My first outreach was to my incredibly talented husband, musician and songwriter Richard Duguay. I’m not sure if he saw the tears that day I first had the idea for the record, but he’s certainly heard my endless rants about kids needing positive messages! So, supportive man that he is, he volunteered to produce and engineer the record and have our home base at Into The Black, our home studio. Hooray! Next on my agenda was to tell my best friends, who also happen to be a talented group of performers. You’ll meet them all as we grow, but my principle partner in (positivity) crime is the imaginative and inspiring Tara Samuel. She and her husband Matt have a toddler son named Rory who is no doubt fueling Tara’s song-writing as we go! Indeed, her piece How to Fly has the honor of being the first up to record. It’s a wonderful imagination song about keeping an open mind in a group project. How apropos.
We’ll also be featuring life-instruction songs like Don’t Be Perfect by Cara Pifko, about how important it is to make mistakes in life, Question Authority, a three-genre anthem in punk, hip-hop and salsa that teaches kids to foster a critical mind, a spoken word piece called I’m No Princess (moms of girls will relate!) and many, many more, including the title track Be Who You Are, a heartfelt sing-along that gives kids permission to just be themselves.
Our plan is to chronicle the making of this record here and put it up for sale when it’s done. Ideally we make visuals to go with it too! We encourage parents, kids and everyone in between to join the conversation about helping grow strong, independent kids. Stay tuned! And if you want to say something on this blog with a guest post or an image or a poem or a recipe – we are open-minded to contributions!