Students, About that Walkout: Totally Do It.

Hi Students,

Thanks for taking the time to read this.  I wanted to take a minute to talk to you about the walkout scheduled for March 14th (or April 20th, depending on where you are in the country.)  I am a history teacher and mom of two girls and I’m one of many adults that will tell you to totally do it.

The walk out has to do with protesting gun violence in schools.  It’s completely fitting that you, the students, would want to do this.  After all, you’re the ones who go to school every day, the ones who have to deal with this fear, the ones who have to go through the drills and the what ifs.  What if an armed intruder comes into the school. What do you call it?  An active shooter? A code red?  Whatever you call it, or your school calls it, it’s totally wrong that it’s something you have to worry about.  You should be worrying about what college you want to go to, who you want to go to the school dance with, whether or not you want to try out for the school play.  You should not have to worry about whether or not there’s a student with a gun who’s going to shoot you in school.

This is your chance to use your bodies in a political movement. The truth of the matter is that money moves politics, and the lobbyists have all the money.   There aren’t a lot of political options open to non-voters, but one of them is peaceful protest.  It’s a protection in the First Amendment, along with freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and freedom of religion.  Freedom to peaceably assemble is right there too.  It’s your right,all of our rights as American Citizens.  Thomas Jefferson called them “unalienable rights” along with Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.   I’d say that not getting killed by a gun in school qualifies toward Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness, wouldn’t you?

There are a bunch of letters out there from other teachers who are encouraging you to have a Walk Up rather than a Walk Out.  The idea is that rather than using your bodies to politically protest, you use your bodies to sit down next to the lonely kid next to you, you share a sandwich, you be a nice kid.  And I want to tell you, that’s great, but you can totally do that 179 other days of the year.  In fact, sit down the day before the walk out next to the lonely kid, share your sandwich, and invite them to the Walk Out with you.

Because here’s the thing.  This is ONE DAY.  The walk out is a movement.  It’s a way to organize.  It’s a way to be powerful both individually and part of a group.  It’s being educated about a subject, and making a decision to do something about it, at the same time as everyone else.  It’s a national movement of all teenagers who have said, “Enough.  Enough of being afraid.  Enough of choosing the right of gun owners over the lives of kids.”  And doing it all together, all at the same time, gives it more power.  So Walk Out Proudly.

You might be getting pressure by principals and teachers to not participate in the Walk Out.  They might be threatening you with disciplinary action, detention or suspension, or whatever.  Keep in mind, these are the same people who celebrate people who hid Jews during the Holocaust, who teach you about Martin Luther King, and sitting at lunch counters in Woolworth, or about suffragettes marching for Women’s right to vote.  Here’s the thing.  All of those people whom  you read about and celebrate, they were acting against the law because it was the right thing to do.  It’s called Civil Disobedience.  Why are your principals and teachers against this idea of  your civil disobedience, but celebrate the civil disobedience of historical figures?  Well, let’s just say that democracy is messy and complicated, and it’s hard for your principal and other school leaders to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Their job is to protect you and to make sure that there is order and discipline.  They’re seeing the potential risks to having a bunch of kids walk out, not the potential greatness.

So here’s what you do.  You educate yourself on why you are walking out.  You organize with your friends.  You stay respectful to the adults in your life, while staying true to yourself.  Remember, this is only 17 minutes, from 10 am to 10:17 am, after that you go back in the school and go back to work taking notes and raising your hand, eating in the cafeteria and running track.

Here’s the other thing you do.  You bring your phone.  You take lots of pictures and videos.  And you post them on all of your social media accounts.  You make this go around the world again and again and again.  You show your power as soon-to-be-voters and internet savvy consumers.

And then you do one other thing.  You write to your Members of Congress.  You write to the President.  Maybe you even send them a picture.  You say that you’re a student who Walked Out and you tell them why you walked out.  And you tell them that you’re not going away.  And that they will be voted out if they don’t change the gun laws to protect kids in schools.  Governing is just a plan for the future. If you don’t like the way your representatives are running the government, you can vote them out in favor of someone that has a better plan .  You have the power, or you will very soon.

One more thing.  I want to tell you how proud I am that you’re taking a stand and making yourself visible.  You are going to be the leaders of the world, and I’m glad to see that you’re doing it with thought and responsibility.  That’s what this country needs more of, young people who speak truth to power.  Speak your truth.

Please share this with your friends, and let me know how it goes.  I can’t wait to watch this unfold. You are Brave Fragile Warriors. Be safe and have fun.

 

 

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Mothers on the March

This is a blog about Kids with Chronic Illness and the parents who care for them.  Today, though I’m going to talk about the  mothers,both in history, and my understanding of being a mom.

For those of you who don’t know, I teach at a small college, Mount Ida, in Newton, MA. I teach history.  I think I’m the luckiest person alive to get the opportunity to interact with students on a daily basis and help them to become better readers, critical thinkers, and better citizens.  I teach a whole range of classes, different topics, different genres, pretty much anything they ask me to teach I will do it, because it gives me an opportunity to look at a topic in a whole new way, and help guide my students through the tricky parts of history.

The other day, in my American History 102 class, from Reconstruction to the present, we were talking about how Jim Crow Laws created the Great Migration.  Jim Crow laws were laws designed to oppress former slaves and their descendants in the south after the Civil War.  They included separate schools, separate doors, and restricting the use of public facilities like bathrooms, pools and water fountains.  These were the laws that the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and 1968 sought to abolish, and what Brown v. Board of Education reversed.  It took a hundred years from the end of the Civil War to the Civil Rights Acts of the 1960s.usa-north-carolina-1950-par41687

How did families react to the Jim Crow Laws?  Well, if they had the means, if they had the ambition, if they had the guts, they left.  They moved to northern cities, got factory jobs, and set up a whole new life in a northern city.  Thousands of black families travelled from the rural south to the Urban centers of the North in the early 1900s.  They used their feet to voice their unhappiness, to make a better life for themselves and their families.

Women played a central role in this movement, because they wanted a better life for their kids.  When you stop to think about it, when mothers get involved, it’s almost uniformly because they are thinking of their children.  This is true for the Great Migration, where mothers travelled with their kids, or sent their kids on ahead to uncles, aunts, or grandparents, and then followed behind.

It’s also true for the bread riots across the centuries.  When mothers see their kids hungry or in pain, they go to war.  Literally.  That maternal instinct kicks in and they are fierce.  They fight for their kids.  Here is an article about the Richmond Bread Riots from the Civil War, but it’s not an isolated case.  You can google mothers and bread riots, and you can find any number of examples.

You will also hear tales of heroism about mothers who go to extra lengths when their child is sick, it is a hallmark of many moms.  Moms will learn everything they can, they will be tenacious in their pressure on medical providers, or insurance companies.  I have been inspired by many women in the work that I do as a volunteer at the hospital or in talking with other moms of kids with chronic illness.  We became mothers not knowing what it is all going to entail, and it’s a lot more than we ever thought, but those are our kids and we are going to fight for them.

I recently went to the Women’s March on Washington, not to protest the presidency of Donald Trump, but because I was worried for my daughters and their future.  I was worried that access for their healthcare would be limited (especially my daughter with chronic illness,) that they would have fewer choices for their reproductive rights, that they would face opposition if they chose to be journalists or would have their free speech curtailed, that the planet upon which they live would be more polluted.

I do not have a statistic, but I would say that many women at the March on Washington were mothers.  Many of them brought their children.  Why would so many women take the time, make the trip, knit the hats, write the signs, and march?

The answer is because they felt threatened, both for themselves and their children.  And they were there to show the world that they weren’t going to go backward in time.  Even before the March, I was asked why I was going, how I felt about the iconic Pussy Hats that were created, and my answer was that I was going for my daughters, and I wanted to be a part of history.

Speaking of history…..

Many people wonder what effect this will have, and I  want to leave you with one more history story.  One hundred years ago, after the election of Woodrow Wilson, on the day before his inauguration, Women Marched on Washington.  The Suffragettes took to the streets with banners and signs.  suffragette-march-1913

This was 1913.  It took seven more years for women to earn the right to vote in 1920.  When women were “roughed up” by men along the parade route, and they asked police officers why they didn’t help, the police informed them that “If they had stayed home, this wouldn’t have been a problem.”

My point is, we don’t know yet what an effect this will have on policy, but we do know that with that many women, that we are there for our daughters, and for generations to come, that we are not backing down and we are not going away.

It’s a moment in history that future history teachers will be teaching, and my daughters and grand-daughters will be able to say that I was there.

And, I hope it will embolden them to be active in what they believe in too.

***If you were a woman who marched and would like to donate your Pussy Hat as a historical example of craftivism, the Fuller Craft Museum is looking for donations.

If you have a handmade knit or crocheted Pussyhat to donate, please contact Beth McLaughlin, Chief Curator, at bmclaughlin@fullercraft.org or 508.588.6000 for information.