Actions Families Can Take in the Streets
Here are some ways you can cultivate multigenerational action spaces and ways you can act as support for those participating in direct action or civil disobedience.
As children, parents, caregivers and elders making it to rallies, protests, marches, meetings, conferences, direct actions and many other activist spaces is difficult with several extra hurdles! Moving your SURJ chapter or affiliate into intentional multigenerational spaces of meeting and action you will be able to open the door to a collective effort to help children, youth, parents, caregivers and elders overcome those hurdles you will help to broaden your scope of engaging people and hopefully moving those people to be bodies on the ground in action. It is important that you go beyond organizing family-centered action and begin to build safe and effective ways for families, caregivers and elders to show up in the action spaces that already exist, calling people into your work in a flexible and inclusive manner. The movement is at a moment where there is an urgency to move ourselves into action in very visible ways to break white silence and when you begin to acknowledge that families, caregivers and elders carry power in showing up you can not only engage more people, but the power of the people is much stronger. Elders carry the wisdom of life’s experiences, the children and youth carry the beauty of what our world could look like with positive change, and our parents and caregivers are the backbones that help us to engage those elders and children.
When we plan actions in our SURJ spaces or when we participate in people of color led actions there are a few simple things we can do to help make action spaces safe for families, caregivers and elders. Always advertise that your spaces are family-friendly and explain what arrangements have been made (food, childcare, accessibility). Communicate with local people of color organizers to offer the resources that are needed in an accountable way. There will also be many ways you can offer direct support to a direct action or civil disobedience from a safe distance. Getting arrested and putting your body in the street in a risky way is needed in movements. As parents, caregivers and elders we are not always in a place where we can take those risks, but we can support those that can in very direct ways. Here are some tips to create safe multigenerational actions spaces, and roles of support that we can fill from a safe distance. SURJ Families also encourages that before you dive into any organizing or action space, you begin building relationships of accountability so you are able to provide what is really needed in the form of support.
Tips and tricks to creating safe multigenerational spaces at actions:
- When organizing an action or even just an intentional space within an action consider meeting a bit ahead of time to gather and prepare. Also consider having a debriefing session after to help adults and kids process what they just experienced together.
- Arrange to have marshals, street medics, legal observers, and other supports that help keep everyone safe. Let them know in advance that there will be children present. Get trained in these skills so that you can offer them in your community.
- Create an area to corral kids at rallies and protests! If you can, keep the kids and youth in one ‘family’ space where there can be extra eyes and hands to help keep everyone safe. Also offer some seating in this area for your elders to take a break. Foster an environment of conversation among the adults and elders. Offer sign making, sidewalk chalk, books, games and anything else you can come up with that will engage the children and youth in why you are there and also keep them occupied. Be sure to take a few moments to talk to the children and youth about the issue you are taking action for and the reason you are taking action. When choosing a location keep bathrooms and general safety in mind. Bring snacks and drinks to share widely. If you are a non-parent adult make sure to engage the families that came, offer to hand out snacks or be an extra set of eyes. Even doing something as simple as sitting down to read a book or play a quick game of go fish would help create a welcoming atmosphere of community.
- When planning to attend marches working as a village with other parents, caregivers and elders is really important. There will be lots of added outside dangers and risks that can seem like insurmountable obstacles to many. Advertise that you will be working as a collective to create a multi-generational space to safely march together. Bring instruments, ribbon wands, signs and other engaging protest gear. Bring wagons and strollers to help haul tired kiddos as they start to fade. Bring plenty of snacks and drinks! Work with organizers to arrange walking towards the front of the march to help set the pace of the march, families and elders will be slower moving groups and if the pace of the march is too fast, they will be the first group to be lost to the back. Consider having a sign making party ahead of time to help engage the children and youth about why you will be marching and the importance of taking action in such a way. The day of the march will be hectic and there may not be space to have that conversation. Non-parent adults just help make the space needed for families, caregivers and elders to move together. You may need to help find a bathroom or help a family work their way back through the crowd. Try and keep a flexible atmosphere!
- For vigils or gatherings meant to hold spaces of honor or celebration, the sound of children playing is great background noise, so create space for kids to just be kids and celebrate each other. You can bring flameless candles, glow sticks or environmentally safe balloons for younger children to hold and participate in the event of they want too. Be sure to take a moment in your programming or to the side to explain and engage with the children and youth about why you are holding that space.
- Consider organizing a Black Lives Matter March for children at a farmers’ market or other safe space. The Colorful Mamas of the 99% created materials you can use here: http://bit.ly/FamilyFriendlyBLMMarch
Roles of support you can fill from a distance for direct action
- Childcare collective. The long and short of it is offering onsite or offsite childcare for movement meeting and action spaces. Not all actions are safe for children and childcare is a huge obstacle for parents and caregivers who are able to put their bodies in the streets. Creating an organized system for setting up volunteer based childcare for action and meeting spaces to allow people of color, very specifically women of color, organize and lead freely is a role you can help fill in your local movement spaces as white families, caregivers and elders. Here are some great resources for starting a childcare collective.
- Provide hot food and other supplies needed for meeting and protest spaces, especially those spaces that are people of color led. You can use a tool like mealtrain.com to help efficiently set up a system of providing food for regular meeting spaces of your local people of color organizers, action spaces of occupation similar to what we just witnessed in Minneapolis and any other ways you may see that you need to support the movement in this way. Working with local organizers you can also help to provide simple supplies need to help maintain shared spaces, art and sign making supplies, money, toys and baby gear. These lists will look different for every group, so make sure you ask what is needed before you begin collecting items.
- Amplify on social media. While social media won't win the revolution for us it will help you get the word out in an effective way to a large amounts of people, and quickly. Helping to create graphics to amplify the voices of local and national issues, sharing and re-tweeting words from those involved in the actions to help gain more visibility for action while it is happening, sharing events and participating in social media campaigns are just some of the ways to plug in virtually. Be careful not to get dragged down the rabbit hole of internet trolls! Recognize when it is someone you can not call in and be willing to disengage to focus your energy on those that are open to being called in and moving to action.
- Jail/bail support. If there is a direct action or an act of civil disobedience often there will be a system of support out into place ahead of time in case arrests occur. There are many roles within that structure of support that you can play. There will be people needed to work the phones and technology side of support, physical support bailing people out, helping with people's pets and kids, gathering food and provisions that can be waiting for people who are released, amplifying on social media and much, much more. The best way to do this support work is to create a relationship with your local group that organizes action around the Black Lives Matter movement, or through your local SURJ chair or affiliate group that may already be connected in this way. Focus on plugging into already existing structures of support.
Here's the full Multi-Generational Organizing Spaces Toolkit.
We want to hear about how you are making your actions multigenerational! Please join our Showing Up For Racial Justice (SURJ) Families Facebook group to seek out advice and share any multi-generational actions you organized or participated in. Or e-mail us your stories and pictures at SURJFamilies@gmail.com