Nickelodeon’s “SpongeBob SquarePants” has given us plenty to love over the last 20 years, but we’ve narrowed it down to our five favorite things.
Monday night’s “Kids, Race and Unity: A Nick News Special” brought together “future leaders and activists” to amplify young Black voices and provide a “safe space” to discuss race.
One month after airing a controversial “I Can’t Breathe” commercial in tribute of George Floyd, Nickelodeon broadcast an hour-long special hosted by Alicia Keys to answer kids’ questions on the Black Lives Matter movement, racism and police brutality.
“We are going to hang out for the next hour and have an important conversation. A conversation on why so many people are upset,” Keys said. “Many of you may have questions, like why are people marching? Why are people screaming, ‘No Justice, No Peace’? And what can we do about police violence?”
The special focused on the voices of youth and their experiences with racism, including “Little Big Shots” star Keedron Bryant, whose passionate performance about being a young Black man in today’s world went viral.
“I’m so excited and thankful and grateful that I can spread my message out there that Black people can live on Earth and we can enjoy life without being afraid,” Bryant said.
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Madison E., 13, who says she first experienced racism when she was called the N-word on a social media app, asked the founders of the Black Lives Matter – Patrisse Khan-Cullors, Alicia Garza and Opal Tometi – what the movement stands for.
“Black Lives Matter is really fighting for the dignity and humanity of Black communities all over the world,” Garza said. Tometi added: “For us, Black Lives Matter is incredibly unifying, and when we say ‘All lives matter,’ we’re actually denying what’s happening to Black people in particular. … There is no way that all lives matter, given what happens to Black people on a daily basis.”
Khan-Cullors encouraged kids to get involved in the movement by looking at what’s happening in their own hometowns: “Start something on your own. Start your own organization, start your own collective. Meet with your friends. Sit with them and ask, ‘What do we want to do?’ ‘What do we want to fight for?'”
Keys added that it’s important to hold our friends accountable for their actions and words.
Author Ibram X. Kendi, who penned the best-selling books “How to Be an Antiracist” and “Antiracist Baby,” broke down terms that many children may be hearing, including “ally,” “racial profiling” and “privilege.”
“If you are that Black person and you walk in to a store and somebody racially profiles you and thinks you are a criminal,” Kendi explained. “Meanwhile, if you are a white person who walks into that same store and because of the color, because of your privilege, no one would look at you as a criminal.”
Keys, mother to sons Egypt, 9, and Genesis, 5, recommended a family book club as one way to start a discussion about race and racism with your parents.
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“You are the next generation. This next generation needs to be filled with love, positivity, inspiration, motivation, because of you guys,” Hart said. “So to kill hate, we love. That’s how we kick the problems of today in the back of the head.”
Campbell, the first black model to appear on the cover of French Vogue, encouraged kids to not let “people’s ignorance intimidate” you, much like she didn’t in the fashion industry.
“There will always be tough moments and challenges ahead, but you must strive to overcome them,” Campbell said. “You have to believe in yourself. You have to always try 110% and then you have to use your voice to uplift each other and one another. Never give up on your dreams. You will get there. Always.”
Biles, the most decorated American gymnast, urged young viewers to continue to “use your voice.”
“We can only move ahead and fight against racism by doing so hand-in-hand,” Biles said. “Let’s not break that chain. Keep the momentum going. … Don’t be silent. You guys are the future.”
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Earlier this month, Nickelodeon showed support for the Black Lives Matter movement following Floyd’s death by airing a commercial of breathing sounds with the words “I can’t breathe.” The move angered some parents, while others applauded it.
“Nickelodeon is going off the air for 8 minutes and 46 seconds in support of justice, equality and human rights,” the network wrote on Instagram earlier this month, marking the amount of time a Minneapolis police officer knelt on Floyd’s neck. “We are all part of the change #BlackLivesMatter.”
The network also shared a Declaration of Kids’ Rights, including, “You have the right to be treated with equality, regardless of the color of your skin” and “You have the right to be protected from harm, injustice and hatred.”
Nickelodeon has continued to address social issues with their young audience through a “kids-eye view.”
In March, Kristen Bell hosted a town hall that answered young people’s questions about the coronavirus pandemic, shared how kids were making an impact during the health crisis and helped separate fact from fiction.
“This is weird,” Bell said. “We’ve never experienced anything like this, not in your lifetime, not in mine, not even in my mom’s.”
“Yes, the world has hit a reset button, but resetting isn’t all bad.” she added. “We’re being forced to look at the world and our friends and our family with more love and more gratitude. I think I needed a little reset on that. I think maybe we all did.”
Nickelodeon also celebrated Pride Month in June by sharing a picture of the network’s “LGBTQ+ community and their allies,” including photos of SpongeBob SquarePants, Avatar Korra from “The Legend of Korra” and Michael D. Cohen from “Henry Danger.”
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