I have been hesitant to join a large Black Lives Matter protest because I have several immuno-compromised members in my small quarantine circle. My father has severe asthma, my father-in-law has an auto-immune disease and the only friend I have in my circle has stage four cancer. So I have been extremely cautious and vigilant about any contact beyond our group and a crowd seemed like a choice of exposure that wasn’t fully mine to make. It really bothered me, however, because I am a show-up-at-protests kind of gal.
Then I got a text from a woman in my ward who had never protested before and asked me if I would keep her company. I told her cautiously that I would, but if the crowd was too dense I would need to keep to the periphery. However when I arrived at the designated time and place I realized she was protesting alone and wanted moral support. Well I can do that! So we stood together with my kids in front of the courthouse by the road holding signs. An old racist dude came up to us and tried to get us to take down our signs and parroted predictable nonsense like the real problem is Black-on-Black violence and the real racists are Black people who at some point in his life were mean to him. It was good to have a teammate in taking turns shutting him down.
I posted a picture of my friend protesting to Instagram and several of our friends reached out and said if we ever went out to protest again they would like to come, but were intimidated by going alone.
So we arranged what one might call a Mormon Mommy Protest. It felt a bit like some kind of Enrichment Activity, a Mom n Me morning playdate. I proposed that we protest not at the usual place in town (the federal courthouse) but instead choose the busiest intersection within our ward boundaries. First, it would allow some of us to walk there, making it more accessible if you’re bringing a youthful posse. Second, it felt more vulnerable to stand in a place where people we knew would see us, and I thought that that was a good thing – push ourselves to do something uncomfortable that was right.
We had four moms, three strollers and a total of eleven kids with our handmade signs. I packed snacks and sunscreen for my crew (5 and 2) and we held up our signs for about forty minutes before the two year old got dangerously fidgety for standing at the side of a road. It provided us with good opportunities to talk to our kids about the issues and to get them directly involved in making signs, waving and talking to passers-by. Afterward my friend with severe social anxiety (who is also my ministering sister) thanked me for keeping her company because she had wanted to participate but her anxiety had made it overwhelming to contemplate.
My point with all of this is not to congratulate myself. Instead, I wanted to offer a suggestion of a way that someone who has never been to a protest, or who may not be able/feel comfortable going to a large gathering can still participate in meaningful ways. When a driver sees a neighbor, a schoolmate, their ministering sister, a friend standing out to share a message, it hits home. We saw ward members driving by and my ward can be fairly conservative (for Oregon. We’re probably Godless heathens in more orthodox parts of God’s kingdom). And this kind of activity, I believe, is exactly why we have ministering sisters. If your ministering sister has ever said “call me if there’s ever something I can do,” call her. Say “I want you to write on a piece of cardboard and stand six feet away from me at X intersection at 3pm. Will you be there? I can bring snacks.” Incidentally, our protest was originally scheduled for 10am, but then everyone had some kid-related conflict. But the beauty of a tiny protest is that it was the work of a moment to find a new compatible time – we had no speakers, no march (beyond our sidewalk), no need to schedule with the city. Protesting is fully compatible with being the caregiver to small children if you choose to make it so.
So if you have not yet participated in a Black Lives Matter protest, make your own. Schedule it around homeschool and naptime and meals. Social justice also needs to happen at 3pm at the corner of your street, as much as it does downtown in the evening. I’ve been schlepping my kids to protests since they were in the fetal stage and every year our yearbook features pictures of us coloring our protest signs for various causes. It’s a fun craft project and is also a natural segue to talking to kids about tough issues, and about how in a concrete way they can stand for truth and righteousness. As I walked home, pushing the stroller and carrying our sign it occurred to me there is no real reason I can’t always have a sign when I take my kids for walks – a march of three with important things to say. So call that Mom n Me group and text your Lunch Bunch. Post in Reading Between the Spines or your Knit-wits and recruit friends to help you say what is in your heart.