Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Road Trip Stories-- Advocacy in D.C., Using Your Voice

I have written a lot of blog posts over the years about how the world is full of so much bad news and how it can all be overwhelming and so hard to stay a light-seeking, positive person. Because there really is so much bad news. And now the election? Oh hell, the election. I have a lot of friends who say they just need a media break or who want to stop watching the news altogether and not pay attention at all. And I get that, I totally get that. Unplugging for a while is good, it's necessary for mental health. But, the only way I know how to feel calmer and more positive and more hopeful is actually getting more involved, paying closer attention and doing something. Volunteering, service, helping out, learning, educating, protesting, supporting, empowering, fighting for and fighting against...using my voice....that's the only way I know how to feel less afraid and less overwhelmed.

When I was asked if my family wanted to take part in a protest/play-in at the Capitol in D.C. for a bi-partisan organization that fights for kids' health, I thought it would be the perfect way to kick off our road trip. Because there is so much bad news and damn, this election, and I want to help make a difference and show my kids that they have a voice and a choice about how they use it. So, we added D.C. to our itinerary and made our way to the nation's capitol. 

Before we left we got books out from the library about founding fathers and former Presidents and the White House. We listened to the entire soundtrack of Hamilton over and over on the way to D.C. We had long conversations about politics and process and policy and how to create change. We had long talks about things we want to try and make better in the world. We talked about climate change and what environmental justice means, and so much more. 

The protest/play-in was being hosted by Moms Clean Air Force (MCAF), a special project of the Environmental Defense Fund. MCAF is a community of moms and dads united against air pollution--including the crisis of our changing climate--to protect children's health.  I've been writing and volunteering with them for a few years now. They are a wonderful organization that not only mobilizes moms (and dads) but also teaches them how to be activists and advocates. They call it "Naptime Activism" on their web site which includes an online action center to help make it easy and fast for "busy parents to make their voices heard while baby naps."

For the third year, MCAF brought together moms from all 50 states and Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia to participate in the Play-In for Climate Action. 

"We know that our children's health is at stake and their future is at stake and we want to see action on climate change," said Gretchen Dahlkemper, National Field Director of MCAF, regarding the Play-In. 

I love this event because it was not passive in any way. The kids participated in every moment of the day including decorating signs, listening to speakers, dancing to a band and meeting with senators' staff on Capitol Hill.  They got to see the process in Washington and be a part of it. They got the opportunity to use their voice to try and create positive change. 

I hope the kids learned a lot from this experience. I hope they learned that activism and community organizing can be fun and so fulfilling and an opporuntiy to truly connect with people. I hope they learned that change is possible. I hope they learned to use their voice but also to listen-- to their neighbors and friends and politicians and people that agree with them and people that don't agree with them. I hope they learned to be respectful and hopeful. I hope they learned that they can be angry and scared but also passionate, positive light seekers. I sure did.

He wasn't so into me taking so many pictures. lol

JT jumped at every chance to get involved from making signs to learning a dance and then performing it at the end of the Play-In. It was fun to watch him be so open to every experience of the day.

They asked if I minded being on camera. Um, NO! lol. 

To me, it's all about taking action and getting more involved, paying closer attention and doing something! That's when I feel less anxious and afraid and overwhelmed and hopeless.

We sang Hamilton songs (in our heads or quietly to each other) off and on all day. Like when we went into the offices of senators, we whisper-sang "I want to be in the room where it happens." Lol.

I was so proud of Lucy when she talked about how climate change has made her friends' allergies worse and how it makes her upset. I was also proud of Peyton when he talked to this young staff member about going to college and how to get into the University of Michigan. Both Peyton and Lucy are introverts and were nervous to speak to people, but they did and they were proud too.

If you want to get involved with or learn more about Moms Clean Air Force click here
I have learned SO MUCH about helping to make the air cleaner and to fight for climate action and environmental justice and how to be an advocate from MCAF.

Here's an awesome recap video from the Play-In (which features a sweet cameo of JT and me).

(Click here to watch the video.)

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