“Honey, are you sure you’re good to go with them?”
“Yeah. It’s important! I should go. I was fine at the Trayvon Martin verdict protest.”
Except that march had been 25% of my pregnancy ago, I had just finished all my water, and I would probably have to pee in less than five minutes. But I was bound and determined that I would march (well, at 37.5 weeks pregnant, it was definitely a waddle) and protest bomb strikes in Syria on this 85-degree day.
Then Bean shifted around and jabbed her knee into my ribs and I was forced to do some “baby spinning” in the middle of the rally and I realized I reeeeeeeeally shouldn’t go with them.
Once I had gotten Bean spun into a more comfortable position, I walked up to Ash-Lee and Cazembe — these amazing Black activists who revived Concerned Citizens for Justice and courageously led the Black Lives Matter movement in our city, these nationally-recognized civil rights organizers — to let them know that I, a white ally, was calling it quits for the day.
“I’m really sorry y’all, I just don’t think I can march all that way,” I apologized.
“That’s real! When’s that baby due anyway?” Caz asked.
“Like two weeks?”
“TWO WEEKS??” Caz practically choked. “You don’t need to go into labor on the street! Get out of the sun!”
“Real quick though,” Ash said, “Before you go, let me introduce y’all to my friends. This is Madeleine and Miles.
“These two are soldiers.”
I have always been a political person. I remember how I stunned my fourth grade teacher by sharing my (rudimentary) feminist ideology — I think my exact words were “boys are allowed to do more and it’s not fair.” When I was twelve, I went on a rant about how patriotism is a sham, because colonists stole land from the Native Americans and therefore America doesn’t belong to us… It was Memorial Day… and Mom was horrified. I helped start a chapter of Amnesty International my first year of high school. When 9/11 happened my senior year, I made waves as the only student in my class of 300 who refused to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. I’ve done walk-outs, sit-ins, flash mobs, feminist convenings, rallies, marches… You get the picture.
The funny thing is, even though I’ve been a feminist since age 9, anti-militarism since age 17, intersectional (or at least trying to be) since I was 20, and a socialist since 24, it wasn’t until that 85-degree day that I realized a new truth in my life:
I’m in this for life.
To hear Ash-Lee, a life-long Black liberation activist who would go on to co-author the Vision For Black Lives, refer to me as a soldier in the fight for social justice and liberation, cemented it for me. This is forever. This is my duty to the people. I cannot leave the movement for civil rights, ever.
All through my high school and college years — and even as a 24-year-old educator! — older adults told me that the older I got, the more moderate I’d become. I’d give up on my radical politics and mellow out and invest in the stock market and not get so hyped up about “issues” like war, or poverty.
I’m 32 now, and if I could, I’d go back to all those people and ask them, “How??”
How on earth am I supposed to mellow out when ever day I hear about another Black person being shot by police, or a transwoman murdered with no justice, or yet another TRAP law stripping me of my bodily autonomy, or another politician who believes that disabled children don’t need an equal education? How am I supposed to be less concerned or less upset, when now there are children I love whose lives depend on the actions I take now?
How do y’all mellow with age when getting older means seeing more injustice?
So while how I fight for the movement may have to change, I’ll never stop.
It’s not because I think the movement needs me. Hell no, the movement existed before I showed up and it’ll keep going if I flake. But I owe it to everyone to not give up. People of color, visibly queer folks, folks living in overpoliced neighborhoods, they all take a major risk when they march and protest. The least I can do is to take on some extra risk, a little discomfort, by joining their struggles in the streets. And when I can’t do that any more because of age or if I get injured, then I can at least keep doing direct action and providing some concrete resources to folks who need it. And if I can’t do that cuz I’m broke, then I can at least keep pressuring my representatives… and so on.
I could never stop fighting for justice.
What about you? Do you feel like you’re part of the new wave of the civil rights movement? Have your views changed as you got older? Share in the conversation below!