Introducing… the Chicago Radical Coloring Book

In June 2013, Chicago Childcare Collective (ChiChiCo) volunteers were asked to participate in a Housing Justice Bus Tour of Chicago, being organized by Communities United Against Foreclosure and Eviction (our partner org!), the Chicago Anti-Eviction Campaign and Centro Autónomo. We were asked to provide activities for kids at each stop of the bus ride, and to think about ways to support parents and caregivers while riding the buses together. The tour went to four different stops all across the city, with long bus rides in between each stop, and the organizers wanted us to engage the young people in ways that went beyond entertainment and related to the issues at hand. So we put on our ChiChiCo thinking caps and figured out a plan.  

Buses are hot and stuffy and confine our bodies to their seats while they’re in motion—so we played games that involved movement for interested kiddos at each stop. Sitting on a seat and looking out the window can be very nice for a while—and it also can be nice to have things to do! So we reached out to our friends in the Intergalactic Conspiracy of Childcare Collectives and got our hands on a copy of the Bay Area Collective’s coloring book Land for the People. Wouldn’t you know it, there were pages depicting home blockades, anti-eviction rallies, the gentrification monster, and community gardens.  

The pages were a hit!  We shared them with bus passengers young and old throughout the day, and continued to bring these struggle-informed pages with us to other childcare gigs throughout the summer.  

It wasn’t much of a leap after that to realize we should make a coloring book that engages with the fierce, grassroots organizing work that we’ve been supporting for the last five years here in Chicago. As we said in our call for submissions, “Just imagine what we could do with a community-created coloring book that highlights the amazing organizing and movement building work going on in this city!!!! Coloring in images of striking CTU teachers, the baby bloc at the NATO protest, and home liberators . . . all while teaching the next generation of activists that coloring outside the lines is okay too.” The response has been incredible.

Despite being an all-volunteer collective, and having no compensation (other than warm fuzzy feelings and our magical appreciation forever and ever) to give artists for their work, we’ve received almost two-dozen submissions before the first deadline. Artists from across Chicago, and from cities far away, have offered to create pages so that we can continue to provide politicized childcare for freeeeee. Once we’ve curated the book, we intend to make all of the pages available for free download, and will have printed copies for folks at a sliding scale rate (mainly to cover printing costs). We hope that childcare collectives, parents, older siblings, internet-savvy kids, rad teachers, and everyone else under the sun will find and use these pages in the coming years.

And we’ve been pushing ourselves and our artists to think critically about how to design pages that foster and encourage creativity. In November of 2013, we hosted a party to launch our call for submissions and dream up designs with our friends. It was an intergenerational afternoon, where we adults and kids really tried to listen to each other’s ideas, support each other in developing them, and got our hands dirty with coloring and crafting. We started informal conversations at this event and continue to grapple with some hard questions as a collective. How do we design pages that uplift the imaginative capabilities of young people instead of teaching obedience to line-filling-in (much like AREA is doing with the print version of this edition)? How do we create pages that encourage young ones to think about the critical issues affecting all of our lives without simultaneously “brainswashing” them or forwarding a single, narrow agenda? How do we include kids in designing the book when it’s mostly adults drawing the pages? None of these questions have simple or quick answers. We hope that through the process of calling for and curating this coloring book we’ll continue to learn and grow about how to provide politicized childcare that contributes to building an intergenerational movement for collective liberation. Get your glitter crayons ready.