Growing up, my brother, sister, and I didn’t own any black magic markers. Why? Because my dad used them all for protest signs. That was back in the very early 1970s, before Dad got swept up with other super-Catholics into Ronald Reagan’s orbit.
In the 1960’s, he was a super leftie with mutton chop sideburns, who joined civil rights and anti-war protests in DC. Even after he started a family, he kept up his activism, but his causes evolved into local environmental protests; at one point, he lay down in front a backhoe to stop a corrupt development project.
My parents brought us along to their protests. My brother would be up on Dad’s shoulders, and my sister and I followed our parents and their friends around in their lines with signs. At one point, my dad started his own third party. At aged six or seven, I stood outside supermarkets with a clipboard trying to get all the necessary signatures. I knocked on doors on one of the street, while he took the other.
So, it seemed fitting that I should take my children to their first protest last week. We went into New York City and marched down Sixth Avenue with folks protesting the unjust death of George Floyd and for the need to examine policing practices in our country.
We had some personal concerns. Of course, there is a viral pandemic still raging around us. We took precautions and hope for the best.
Ian was the other concern. We decided to bring along our son with autism, so he wouldn’t be left home all day. We weren’t sure how he would do in this situation. As a safeguard, I labeled him with a sharpie marker. If things went south, we would have scrammed, of course, but there was a danger that things would go south tooquickly to get out fast enough. We purposely chose a daytime event in midtown that was co-organized by healthcare workers, because that isn’t the type of event for looters or rioters. We were safe.
In our democracy, people can participate in politics in a variety of ways. Voting is the easiest. A protest takes more effort and has more risk. But there is something glorious, even party-like, about making a public statement. My college-aged kid, Jonah, is completely hooked. He’s making plans with a friend to go back to the city this weekend for more.
One of the joys of parenting is sharing experiences and knowledge to the youngun’s. This week, we taught our kids how to be bad-asses. And in the process, it reminded me about my own activism roots. What’s going to be my next cause? Disabled kids.
Someone get me some black magic markers!
Be well! Laura