From Soccer Mom to Activist

Photo by  Kisha Bari  @KishaBari

Photo by Kisha Bari @KishaBari

I have always had an interest in politics. I grew up with parents who consciously talked to my sister and me about current events and issues around civil rights. We voted with our parents and watched the State of the Union as a family. I have been a Democrat since before I really even knew what that meant! Now, as an adult I take my kids with me when I vote - something we’ll be doing again on Thursday! I tell them who I am voting for and why, encouraging them to understand the importance of civic engagement. Admittedly, I was one of the people who was completely shocked by the election of Donald Trump. I realized afterwards that I had placed myself into a beautiful echo chamber of liberalism and hadn’t even seen the alternative coming.

Talking to my children the morning after the election was so hard. I had told them about both candidates and why I was opting to vote for Hillary Clinton. They knew that Donald Trump was mean; that he spoke disrespectfully about people with disabilities, people of color, Muslim people, and about women. My boys looked at me that morning and asked me how he was elected president when he was so unkind, so disrespectful... It was hard to find words of hope for them.

Since that day I have been horrified by the things that I’ve witnessed in our government so often that the word horrified has started to sound normal. From the lies to the attempts to get rid of healthcare protections. From the revolving door of staff to the response to Hurricane Maria. The attacks on American citizens with whom the President doesn’t agree – name calling, racist vitriol, and consistent disrespect. I have called my Senators more in the last 2 years than I have in my entire life. I have engaged and then disengaged because it all felt like too much. I have been angry and anxious and scared in ways that I haven’t ever been before. Remember when I thought that George W. Bush was the worst thing that could happen to America?! UGH!

And then came the cages.

It was mid-June and the Administration pushed out a “Zero Tolerance” policy at the border. Kids were taken from their parents and put into detention camps, in cages. It was almost too horrific for me to think about. For the first couple of days, I couldn’t watch. I detached. I hate to admit that, but saying anything else would be a lie. Seeing children who were only different from my own because of the color of their skin and their country of origin, crying uncontrollably for their parents, dirty, sleeping on the floor… it was almost unbearable. I lost a lot of sleep that week thinking about the pain of the mothers and fathers who are doing the best they can for their babies. Thinking about those babies…

One night as I laid awake in bed, I opened my phone and started scrolling through Facebook. I came upon a post from the Women’s March calling on women, and mothers, to rise up against family separation. The post called on us to elevate our actions and put our bodies on the line for our sisters and brothers at the border. I signed up for the action right then – at 2:00 in the morning. I had almost forgotten that I’d done it by the time I woke up.

On June 28, 2018 I was arrested for the first time. I engaged in non-violent civil disobedience in Washington, D.C., alongside of 600 other brave women. First, thousands of us marched and made our presence known. We surrounded the Department of Justice, demanding that ICE be Abolished and that families be kept together. Then we went to the Hart Senate Building where we created the largest single act of civil disobedience at the Capital in recorded history. As I sat on the floor of the Hart Senate Building with my arms linked with my fierce protest sisters, singing the songs and chants that other fierce sisters were leading, I have never felt more aware of my own power. This wasn’t the puffed-up kind of power, but rather a deeply rooted, calm, truth-telling power. I was using my body and my voice to speak up for the justice that I so deeply believe in and I was doing so while making active decisions to accept the consequences of my actions. I was also in community with hundreds of other women who were willing to do the same. As Senators came out to support us and talk with us, and the text messages started rolling in of people at home watching on the news, I was awed by our collective power, too. It was an extraordinary experience.

Coming back home after the #womendisobey action, I felt a new type of resolve when reading about the horrors of this administration. I believe that our action that day inspired a lot of change and also inspired a lot of people – it was powerful, because we were powerful. So, when Trump nominated Judge Kavanaugh to sit on the Supreme Court, while withholding 96% of his record from the American people, I was ready.

On Wednesday, September 5, 2018 I took my kids to their first day of school and that night, I was on a train to Washington. I had been watching the Kavanaugh Hearings live for two days, in complete awe of my amazing friends and comrades who were there disrupting the hearing. Then Wednesday night I saw Senator Harris question Kavanaugh long after the prime-time news was over. Her ferocity and commitment to the truth was a reminder that we are all in this together. On Thursday, September 6, 2018 I participated in the #CancelKavanaugh protests with the Center for Popular Democracy and Women’s March. I was arrested two times that day, the first for disrupting Kavanaugh’s hearing and the second outside Senator Grassley’s office.

People have asked me if I think that all of this was worth it. If it changed anything. My answer? Absolutely. Not only do I believe that Senators Booker and Harris, and their colleagues who support them, acted the way that they did because they saw the risk that regular Americans were willing to take, but I also believe that it brought attention to the hearings, highlighting the lack of transparency and exactly what’s at stake.

The actions that I have participated in have all been well-coordinated by seasoned organizers. I have felt supported, safe, and prepared in every situation. I have also been a part of a community, even though I have shown up alone every time. The care that I have seen these folks take for one another is amazing – being in community like this has been, by far, my favorite part of these experiences. The organizations that I have protested with (Center for Popular Democracy and Women’s March) have provided incredible support – they’ve made it easy for me to just show up with my big mouth. They have provided legal support, a church to sleep in, transportation coordination, meals, and anything else that I’ve needed. Every time I have been released from Police custody there has been a volunteer there to make sure that I’m ok and to assist me with getting back to where I need to go. This is far from just showing up and hoping for the best. This is beautifully orchestrated, thoughtful, high impact, supported disruption.

If I can do it, so can you!

What do you want to know about civil disobedience? What’s stopping you from joining? I’d love to hear your thoughts and answer any questions that you have!

PS - Here are some more links about the #CancelKavanaugh action: here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here