Our country has a rich history of marching on Washington, to defend rights, to protest, to resist. Two picture books I have been reading capture this dynamic perfectly for young children.
The Youngest Marcher by Cynthia Levinson portrays the energy and idealism of children standing up for justice in the civil rights era. To counteract the cultural dissonance of our current President-elect criticizing civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis, read this book to your children. Young Audrey Faye Hendricks participates in the 1963 Children’s March in Birmingham, Alabama, offering a powerful example of youth activism. With beautiful illustrations by Vanessa Brantley Newton, this book was just published this month by Atheneum/Simon & Schuster.
We March by Shane W. Evans shows a family rising early, traveling by bus, and participating in a civil rights march in Washington DC. Its spare words and vibrant illustrations leave a lot of room for the child reader to ask questions or let the story weave its spell. A perfect picture book (Roaring Brook Press, 2011).
The Women’s March is in one week. May it contribute to the great history of marches on Washington to rally, protest, and resist!
Kids will feel the blowback of the election long after the polls close tomorrow in this history-making election. They’re going to need us to decipher the noise and fall-out. We can model important elements like civil discourse and political engagement.
Voting together is a great start!
*Last month, I participating in the OpEd Project’s “Write to Change the World” seminar. The mission of the OpEd Project is to diversify the voices we see and hear in our nation’s op-ed pages and media. The OpEd Project provided me knowledge, a boost of confidence, and mentoring from a mentor-editor. It’s an amazing organization and program! Read more about my experience here.
All the stars aligned, and there we were, marching over the Brooklyn Bridge to celebrate National Pantsuit Day and cheer for Hillary Clinton.
We were in New York City on a Friday night to see Hamilton.
As if that wasn’t charmed enough, we found out about a Saturday event: the Pantsuit March.
I loved the details in the event posting for the Oct. 22 march:
Signs: We’ve got a bunch of awesome ones for everyone. Feel free to bring your own too, but let’s keep them positive. Love trumps hate. -Weather: The great thing about pantsuits is that they can stand up to anything…sexism, inequality, and RAIN! Join us, rain or shine!
Yes, it was blustery crossing that bridge with a festive group of men, women, children and a few dogs. There were colorful pantsuits, plastic pearl necklaces, and energetic chanting.
In the face of so much negativity in this campaign, it was pure joy– something I won’t soon forget.
Searching for My Sidekick: I wrote that essay three years ago, as I remembered my childhood friend Wilfredo on his October 12 birthday. I’d recently learned that he had died, and I had an unsettled feeling, wondering about the circumstances of his death at age 34.
Many friends and readers responded to my essay, so I have to share this update. This past year I found Wilfredo’s sister, Jeannine. She is ten years younger than Wilfredo and I; she is an educator and a mom. She filled in a lot of missing pieces, about what a great brother Wilfredo was to her, about his career, his partner, his humor, his life in the Village, his battle with AIDS. We’ve shared stories and photographs.
I felt a sense of both sadness and peace, knowing how Wilfredo was loved, cherished, held by his family. Jeannine is now a friend and I’ve had the chance to talk on the phone to her and to their mother—the woman who pierced my ears in her Bronx kitchen so long ago! Oh, and Wilfredo has a handsome young basketball-playing nephew–named Will.
You can read my original essay published at she.com, Searching for My Sidekick, here.
The mission of the OpEd Project is to “increase the range of voices and quality of ideas we hear in the world. A starting goal is to increase the number of women thought leaders in key commentary forums to a tipping point. We envision a world where the best ideas – regardless of where they come from – will have a chance to be heard, and to shape society and the world.”
The seminar was geared not only to women, but to other voices that are under-represented in the public discourse, in places like the op-ed pages of newspapers, on radio and television commentary, and more.
We grappled with the question, what makes an expert? We were challenged to think about ourselves as “experts” in our respective fields (including higher education, children’s literature, immigration policy, legal protections for whistleblowers, faith-based initiatives, and medicine).
We learned so much through small group work, lots of interaction, and dynamic presentations by Becca Foresman, Chloe Angyal, and Macarena Hernandez. Resources on writing and submitting op-ed pieces were shared, and we came away inspired and empowered.
As one of our leaders shared, “If you say things of consequence, there may be consequences. The alternative is to be inconsequential.”
Those are words LGBT advocate Cyd Zeigler and his husband exchange each day. Part affirmation and part words of gratitude, Zeigler’s words electrified the audience of student-athletes, coaches, advocates, and educators. We had gathered in Hyannis, MA for a summit to discuss the intersection of student athletes, LGBTQ diversity, and anti-bullying.
Zeigler had returned to his native Cape Cod to share his own story: teased for being gay years before he came to the realization himself, Zeigler didn’t come out until well after his high school years. A lifelong athlete, Zeigler recognized after he came out that there wasn’t much overlap between the realm of sports fans/athletes and the gay community. He set out to do something about it by co-founding OutSports.com. You can read more about OutSports here.
Student-athlete Braeden Lange also presented. Imagine a thirteen-year-old boy holding a conference room in thrall with his positive message and poised responses to questions. A lacrosse player, Braeden spoke about coming out as a sixth grader, how ostracized he felt, and how connecting to Andrew Goldstein, a well-known gay lacrosse athlete who is out, saved his life and gave him hope. Braeden shared that those connections are what keep young LGBTQ students from feelings of despair and isolation. This is one of the goals of the short documentary about him and Andrew, The Courage Game, that was shown at the conference. You can view the ESPN feature here. (13 min.) It’s amazing!
Zeigler also emphasized the power of connection and coming out: he often hears from athletes who are deeply fearful of being ridiculed and ostracized by their teams. Often it is the opposite that happens, Zeigler recounted: athletes feel the support of teammates and coaches, and the liberation of no longer harboring a secret.
As Braeden said, “living your truth…you don’t have to have that weight on your shoulders.”
State Representative Sarah Peake spoke about her own coming out process, her memories of being a student-athlete, and her appreciation for the positive messages of Zeigler and young Braeden.
Jonathan Peters, a senior at Sturgis Charter School who spearheaded the event, closed with words of gratitude and inspiration. He thanked Cyd Zeigler and Braeden for traveling to the Cape for the event that attracted participants from as far as Rhode Island. He spoke about his own process, saying that rather than using the term “coming out,” he prefers, “invite the world in.”
That’s exactly what happened in that conference room. The world was invited in. Student athletes, advocates, principals, coaches, educators, and allies came together. The power of connection was affirmed. And everyone left that room feeling a little braver, more connected, and optimistic about the intersection of LGBTQ diversity and sports.