Last week, I published a piece detailing a protest and the ongoing organizing led by a multi-racial coalition of neighbors in my predominately White community in Atlanta, Georgia. We are responding to the racial profiling and racism that occurs on Nextdoor and other online platforms.
To recap, Black and brown people are criminalized on a nearly daily basis while White people behaving in similar ways are extended compassion and usually deemed mentally unwell. As part of our collective response, we felt strongly that all of our kids should participate in the protest. I wanted to share what this looked like in my family, all of whom are White.
To prepare for the protest, a neighbor hosted a family friendly sign-making and pizza party. As my family geared up to walk over, I explained the purpose of the gathering to my children, who are five and two.
“We are going over to our neighbors house to make signs for a protest. One of our neighbors, who happens to be Black, was told she didn’t belong in our neighborhood because of the color of her skin.”
“WHAT?!” My five-year-old exclaimed. “That’s not very nice!”
“I know,” I agreed. “We are going to support her and tell the rest of our neighborhood we don’t think it’s fair. Everyone should feel welcome and safe here, no matter the color of their skin.”
My husband arrived a few minutes later and as we walked out the door, I heard my five-year-old say to him, “we’re going to protest because one of our White neighbors doesn’t believe in Martin Luther King. That’s not ok!”
“That’s not quite it, honey,” I responded, and we continued to talk about the incident and why it was important we joined the protest as we strolled over to my neighbor’s house.
When we arrived, the kids, who ranged in ages two to ten years old, immediately began playing basketball, playing in the yard and checking out the toys inside. I called my five-year-old over to make a sign and asked him what he wanted to write.
“I don’t know, what do you think?” he questioned.
“You can write whatever you want,” I replied. I showed him the sign I made, which said “Stop Racial Profiling on Nextdoor!”
“I think I’ll write ‘Black Lives Matter'” he decided. I helped him by calling out the letters and he created a beautiful sign of which he was really proud. The other kids created signs that said “I want rights too. Stop racism now!” or “Black Lives Matter”, while the younger kids doodled and decorated the signs.
The day of the march, we all gathered again with our families, ate and enjoyed each others company. For those of us with young children, the parade we were joining in protest didn’t start until 7 p.m., which was bedtime for most of the kiddos. We remained on borrowed time for the duration of the action. The parade was also Star Wars themed, and my kids happen to obsessed (whose aren’t?), so once we arrived and they saw the characters, the sense of protest faded away, which was okay. Most of the kids took pictures with the Star Wars characters and some had come dressed up in costume. It was fun for them.
When the parade began, we waited in order to bring up the rear and then pulled out our protest signs. The kids carried signs, some walking, some in strollers. My two-year old asked for a sign that read “Ask me why we protest” I told her what her sign said and she began shouting “Ask me why! Ask my why!” as she sat in our stroller.
My five-year old took off with my husband to check out all the different costumes and found a robotic, realistic looking R2D2, which pretty much blew his mind. I didn’t get to experience the protest with him, and again, I had to be okay with that.
I remembered a tip I read about protesting with kids that lollipops buy you time, so I brought a bag of dumdums with me. As children began to melt down left and right, I handed out lollipops to try to appease our tired crew. It helped a little.
Ultimately, the protest was a success and I’m glad we all pushed our kids to be involved for multiple reasons. First, I hope to raise advocates who understand and value action and service. Secondly, it was important to show our greater neighborhood that our group was a part of this community; we were families. Most importantly, it was important to remind our neighbors that families of color lived here too.
My kids see pictures from that night and my two-year old says “there’s a picture of the protest!” My five-year old remembers the Star Wars characters more than anything, but also has a grasp around why we protested.
Involving my children in racial justice work is really important to me. I want to model action in my own life, but also create opportunities for them to show up and be heard. In what ways have you incorporated your kids into your racial justice work?