Friday, June 07, 2013

Nuns, Buses, and Introduction to Protesting 101

H and I often talk about how important it is to introduce the beasties to protesting. As the beasties will gladly tell you we often try to engage them (bore them to tears I'm sure) on questions of social justice and the importance of making your voice heard. But we haven't given them as many as opportunities as I would like to have their bodies on the ground so to speak. As a big believer in educational action, this seemed a big gap in what we were doing. I had many excuses...after all it's hard to get five beasties out the door anywhere much less to an organized protest.

So when I woke up late Wednesday morning, after a rather hideous night of putting together an Ikea bed (beer was involved but did not help), I was not in any mood to drive to Atlanta to stand around in the hot Southern sun. But as I sipped my coffee, I started to feel like this really needed to be done. H and I forced beasties out of bed, took hurried showers, and made up some signs.
Piper was super excited to make her own sign.

We had a rough start...lots of stopping to get food, coffee, you know the necessities of life. Gone are the days when going to a protest really only involved rolling out of bed, grabbing a coffee, and heading out. Protesting with kids involved a level of organization that I was only used to when being, well the organizer.
But we got there. We parked the car, and saw a small group of people walking towards a main through away. Later Horacio and I and both confessed that we were really bummed that there were only a handful of people. We got the kids out, got our signs, put little beasties in the stroller, and strapped on the diaper bag. It was hot, and as we rushed to catch up with the group, sweat was already pooling down my back. I was waiting for the kids to complain but surprisingly they didn't.

We found out the group was actually a splinter off group going out to meet the nuns with their signs. Security had, apparently, told them they had to put their signs away. The senator the nuns were meeting conveniently had his office in a private building thus disabling protests at his office.

I was kind of eh about this side trip, aware that we had a finite amount of time with the kids but the girls were super excited to get to greet the bus. We all waved and yelled and waved our signs including Piper and Camille. We even got Umberto to hold a sign. 

The woman in white below was awesome. She's from Move On in Atlanta and her passion is seriously contagious. She was thrilled to have the kids at the protest, and excited that we hope to do more activism in the area. She knew about immigration and cared deeply that justice happens for those caught in the system. It's inspiring to be around people who care and fuels your own flame no matter how tiny it might start.

We turned around and began the walk back to the office. The kids went willingly, I suspect taking pleasure in the attention lavished on them. They held up their signs at all the cars passing, pleased when someone honked and waved. Umberto was a little grumpier but didn't complain. When we got to the office site, we were getting the kids under the porch where it was shaded. As soon as I had Jude out of the stroller, a security guard came over and told us we had to leave. He was the nice one. He was shooing us all off, having a fit if anyone held up signs but he was least polite.

But then another security guard came out and he wasn't so nice. He threatened to arrest us, and was verbally abusive, yelling at older ladies...getting into people's faces. Umberto was thrilled to hold up his sign in his first act of civil disobedience. I suspect this was by far the most thrilling aspect for him. As we started yet another long walk to a new location, I talked to Umberto about Thoreau and his concept of Civil Disobedience, and introduced to others like Gandhi who used this method to protest oppression. Breaking the law is fun and games to a teen age boy but I wanted him to understand the harsh consequences often visited upon people who stand up to oppression.

As we crossed the major through way to a shopping mall parking lot, Camille held up her sign proudly to the cars stopped at the lights. I felt the tears coming and I know, I know, kind of silly but this is my moment of pride. My kids, protesting for something we as a family believe in, proud, defiant. These are the kind of people I want to raise. Coming to the protest was all about this..showing them that they are part of a community, introducing them to the excitement of standing with others and doing the right thing. 

The girls drew a lot of attention, and they handled themselves well. Piper who is so self conscious talked to reporters, held her sign up for both still and news cameras. She even went up front by the bus with her sign for an official picture (and got fussed over by some sisters). Camille did not want to be on camera but she held up her sign, videoed taped the gathering, and was interested in what was going on around her. Jude was a big hit as the youngest supporter in presence. She got a sticker and a picture taken of course. 

H and I did an interview with someone (not sure if they were news or if they were documenting for the Nuns on the Bus). H was brilliant, and mentioned Freedom University a number of times. He talked about the social construction of being undocumented, etc. I was more flumbly as I am with the camera but I did manage to talk a bit about why we had brought the children and about how even legal routes to citizenship were problematic in terms of money and personal humiliation. 

And of course I was super excited to meet the Nuns on the was an honor to stand behind them (I'm behind the guy with the big Reunite Families sign). And I got to hear Sister Simone (I admit I'm a fan girl and was bummed I didn't get a photo with her). The kids held up well but it was hot so we had to leave...R kept crying that she wanted to go to "Tlanta" aka downtown area. We missed the SIX police cars sent out after the event was over....

The night before we left for the protest, we talked to the kids about why we were going to the march. We wanted them to understand that this wasn't just about other people but about them. They are Latino/a and they will have to face people who don't see them as belonging here (despite the fact that they are all American citizens). We wanted them to realize that thread that connects them to undocumented immigrants as well as to the greater human community. My children live in a state that has legalized racial profiling. My children are American citizens but because of their skin color, they have to prove it. I don't have to prove it.My white readers don't have to prove it either. Instead we are assumed belonging because of our whiteness. At the event, we saw people of all races, uniting in that human community, calling for justice, for the recognition that humanity does not have borders.


Crystal Rhew Staley said...

This is just so awesome Ginger. o know you are super proud of your kids!

Anna said...

I really enjoy your blog and so I have nominated you for a Liebster Award. I hope that you get a chance to post some stuff about you as I'd love to get to know you better!

Ginger Stickney said...

Ahhh thanks Anna!