WASHINGTON, DC — A group of mothers and their families gathered in D.C. Saturday to demonstrate for racial justice and the Black Lives Matter movement as part of the Black Mamas March.
"A lot of us mothers who are joyful activists and who already do racial justice work, but have young children, were very frustrated about our inability to really fully participate in our First Amendment rights and in protests, because the state had such a violent reaction to protesters," said co-organizer Kiara Pesante Haughton of Congress Heights. "We've been very concerned about in the wake of a respiratory virus pandemic that tear gas has been deployed on people."
Pesante Haughton and fellow co-organizers Aisha Alexander-Young and Angela Peoples recognized those issues were non-starters for many mothers who wanted to be involved in the protests but where concerned about the health and safety of their children.
This led the three to organize the Black Mamas March in which protesters and their children would march from the U.S. Navy Memorial Plaza to the National Museum of African American History and Culture.
"We really wanted to create a space for mamas and those with young kids to be able to participate in the demands for justice in this moment," said Alexander-Young, who lives in Ward 4. "Given COVID-19, given some of the aggression that we've seen from the police at other protests, we wanted to make sure that we create a safe, joyful environment for families and kids."
Saturday's march was an opportunity for those families who have been watching the protests unfold in the aftermath of George Floyd's death and were agitated and concerned for the safety of their own family members to get involved.
"They're having really important and tough conversations with their children about not just adjusting police violence and racism in all of our systems, but also how can they take action and protest," said Peoples, who lives in Southeast. "What we're hoping to do today is to create a moment for families who have seen this movement happen and are seeing an opportunity for themselves to jump in."
Saturday's event was planned as a commitment to action in the spirit of black joy and black resilience, according to Peoples. In addition to the march, the event included music, dance, and a performance by the Black Joy Experience. There were even children's activities, like the chance to make signs, create chalk drawings, and blow bubbles as they marched along the National Mall.
"We're going to hear from local organizers, some black mothers and caregivers who are fighting to make D.C. a safer place for our families and our children, " Peoples said.
On Juneteenth, the Movement for Black Lives had put out a call for a national weekend of action.
"Here in D.C. and around the country, people were taking action in defense of black lives, calling for investments, calling to defund the police, and calling for Trump to resign for all of the crises we're facing," Alexander-Young said.
The Black Mamas March organizers had planned to participate in those activities, but they decided to reschedule the event due to concerns over the thunderstorms that were expected to come through the area last weekend.
"We decided to move it to this weekend, so that we could have more children around," Alexander-Young said.
Black Mamas March came together as a way to mobilize Black mothers in the call for justice.
"We heard George Floyd call out for his mama in his moment of crisis," Alexander-Young said. "Time and time again, mothers are the ones on the front line grieving for their children and demanding action and justice for their children."
The aim of Saturday's march was not just to demonstrate for one day, but also to connect mothers and families to the movement and raise awareness of local issues of concern, like the push to defund the police and to remove police officers from D.C. schools.
"We want to be able to mobilize mamas and our organizing power and our extreme love, not just for our children, but other people's children," Alexander-Young said. "We're not just mothering for our children, but for our community, and mobilizing that into action."
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