Walking the Walk and Talking the Talk (AKA How I Spent My Winter Vacation)

I know it’s been a slow year on this blog, so for those of you who have stuck around, let me first thank you. Whether you’re old or new here, welcome (welcome back) and Happy New Year to all!

Honestly, it’s been hard to write more than rants on Facebook walls or quick blurbs on Twitter. My heart has been really heavy. There have been times where I have just been at my breaking point. I’m fearful of the world we are leaving our children. I truly am. And though I’ve kept on a brave face for my girls and even still found time to find some levity in the world [moment of silence for Joe Manganiello’s singlehood] and have kept myself busy with craft project after craft project, whenever there was silence I couldn’t fill, one thought always came back: we are fucked.
So I could just keep being afraid of the silence, or I could do something.
Pop Culture Dad is from St. Louis. [Yeah, I know]. Between the events in Ferguson and some other things, the likelihood of us making it to our annual Christmas trip this year was low like a girl in a Flo Rida song. But… it’s family, you know? And we only get to see them twice a year. But PCD and I decided that if we were going to go into the belly of the best, some good was going to have to come of it.
I had been following the action on Twitter and Facebook since the very beginning, but realized as Christmas was approaching that I didn’t actually know where to find information on how to get involved. I asked around and got several references for groups looking for lawyers to help out. I got in touch with those groups, and they all said they would get back to me… Then we got to St. Louis and… I just waited. No calls. I called again. I was told they would get back to me. My plan to be part of a solution was being thwarted. And, quite honestly, I felt a little depressed about it. In my head, our entire week in St. Louis was going to be filled with one rally or jail visit after another with us shouting to the family, “Come along or we’ll just have to catch you later!” In reality, it was basically like any other trip to the city: family, food, movie, Magic House. Then finally the morning before we went home to Texas, my phone rang with a text alert:

TODAY (SATURDAY), 2PM: STL’s United We Stand Silent March. Meet at Union Station downtown (18th and Market).

Finally! I informed Pop Culture Dad that, despite all the things we needed to do that day and all the promises we made to family, we were going. He was totally game, but we were also unprepared. On the way there, we ran into Michaels and grabbed posters and markers. The Pop Culture Girls decided they wanted to do their own posters. They did not, however, know how to spell “Black Lives Matter” on their own. So I wrote it out for them and told them they could follow it. Little Diva (being six and all) did a pretty great job. Super Girl got all of the letters, buuuuut, well, they weren’t exactly in any particular order. So she allowed me to make her a new sign, and she decorated it.

Super Girl and Pop Culture Dad
Little Diva made her own sign (“MY LIFE MATTERS”). Mommy probably should have told her yellow on pink doesn’t really show from far away.

This is the adorable sweatshirt hiding under those huge coats. It was far too cold to show them off.
Despite our rushing, we made it to the meeting place in time and ready to go. It was cold (particularly for us Southern folk), and it was rainy. However, this group of a little over 100 people was not deterred. We walked arm-in-arm, silently (except for the children…), with our mouths covered with the names of a victim or victims of police and para-police violence, down Market Street toward the St. Louis Arch. As you can see in my pictures, this isn’t just a group of black people. This is truly St. Louis UNITED. There were people of various races and ethnicities. The ages ranged from 0 to somewhere in the septuagenarian range. There were people of various physicalities and physical disabilities.
You notice how that microphone says “5” (as in “News 5”)? The same reporter during those interviews later stated during the 5 p.m. Channel 5 newscast that he could not confirm that there were protesters in the area. Apparently the fact that he was with us from beginning to end was not enough to confirm our presence. See, people? This is why you need to have a healthy skepticism and distrust of mainstream media.
Now here’s where trolls on Twitter and people within the Arch who have unrecognized and unresolved race bias issues differ from what people outside the Arch will tell you. Trolls on Twitter who were never there have been arguing that the group was violent, raging, and vandalized the Arch (seriously). Anyone with half a brain knows that isn’t true. In fact, you can witness it for yourself. I videoed various parts of the protest, and if you look on Twitter for #STLunited, you will see several people who live-blogged or later videostreamed parts of the protest. In addition to what you can see for yourself, here’s what I can tell you: three of the protesters actually went inside the Arch to use the restroom. Once inside, security had noticed there were protesters, and those women were locked inside. When you hear us chanting “Open the gates!” it started because people were asking for security to let those women out. By the way, the Arch is a free, federal landmark open to the public. Can they restrict entry and exit for security concerns? Of course. Is prohibiting a group from exercising their First Amendment rights in a nonviolent manner in a way that doesn’t otherwise violate laws something that can be done at a federal landmark? Honestly, I don’t know [I haven’t done the research on that yet]. It’s a non-issue anyway. Because I think there is reasonable disagreement as to whether there would have been a security risk (probably something as little as a fire hazard) from allowing a marching, chanting group of 100+ people inside. I’m not saying I agree that there was a risk; I just agree that I see both arguments, and so we don’t even really get to the First Amendment issue. 
What I can tell you, however, is that this protest was most certainly non-violent. As I mentioned, this was a varied group, which included a lot of families. We had a woman in a wheelchair, a man on crutches, etc. This group marched in total silence [again, minus the children, who don’t really get that whole “silent” part of the silent protest] for nearly two hours before we reached the Arch. Yes, there were guys in Anonymous masks. And, honestly, the most annoying thing they did the entire time was smoke in close proximity to children and senior citizens. There was only one person in this entire group who raised my antennae, and I was side-eyeing and closely watching that guy the entire time. And, yes, this guy was the one who, after chants I wasn’t too uncomfortable having my children hear, decided to lead a much smaller group in a round of “Fuck the Police.” That’s one guy, out of over 100. There’s always one. And that one person is not the group. He was not representative of the group at all. In fact, he didn’t even march in close proximity to the rest of us (and I have the picture to prove that too).
The police, who kept a safe distance from the group (because no crimes were broken, HELLO) stay close to the guy I was side-eyeing.
The Arch was not vandalized. We created a “memorial” using the pieces of colored tape that had previously been on our mouths. Easily removable. Does not destroy property. It is no different from when people leave signs, flowers, and other memorabilia on public property. Anyone who calls that vandalism is a moron (and probably also an overreaching racist, but I digress…). As I mentioned on the Pop Culture Mom Facebook page, I’m a government attorney. Do you really think I would participate in or encourage any sort of activity that would violate federal law? Of course not. Any suggestion otherwise is preposterous.
tape bearing the names of victims of police violence
Correction of some of the falsities I’ve heard aside, this was a beautiful moment. I actually cannot find adequate words to express how moved I was by the entire experience. Seeing all of these different people come together was amazing. People who didn’t even know each other and hadn’t even learned each other’s names, were linking their arms and hands to stand united. People were helping each other (picking up the wheelchair together, offering food, holding things to allow someone to tend to children, checking on the children and talking to them, etc.). This total group of mostly strangers came together for one common reason—wanting to make sure that law enforcement and the general citizenry realize that black lives matter too—and it was amazing
Super Girl has the best seat in the house
Arms linked marching toward the Arch

 

Strangers united for a common good

Even more than the experience itself, I was so glad to have shared it with the Pop Culture Girls. Due to all of the craziness going on and the unavoidable conversations in our house that Little Diva is entirely too smart (and too nosey) to miss. I had to have “the talk” with her earlier than anticipated. We had the talk over Thanksgiving. More on that later. But suffice to say, even at six, she understands the gross unfairness in treating people differently because of their skin color, and she can’t believe that there are adults who think it is perfectly fine to support a broken system that systematically treats “the other” unfairly. So, despite the fact that she was not exactly down for all that walking (and none of us were down for the cold and the hail), Little Diva was glad she did the protest. One of the gentlemen who had been gathering everyone together when we initially arrived asked Little Diva at the end what she thought of everything, and she answered “Pretty good. Pretty good for my first protest.”
“Pretty good for my first protest.”
I’m proud of my kids for sticking with the elements and trudging along. I’m proud of my oldest daughter for understanding these issues that are so much bigger than anyone should have to understand at six years old [and, sadly, it turns out she “gets it” a lot better than many adults I’ve seen online]. I’m proud of my husband (and his entire family, amazingly) for recognizing and trying to fight against his white privilege to make a better world for, not just our children, but every child in this country. I’m proud of everyone who was there. 
Every time I get overwhelmed with despair, I look at the pictures from this march and I realize that there are people out there fighting to make a difference. I’m not sure if their work will change everything, but they’re bound to change some minds. Every little bit counts!

Originally posted on Blogger (http:/www.popculturemom.com) http://ift.tt/1vHdPR9

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