This was originally posted on The Chicago Moms
When people ask what it was like to attend the March for Our Lives, I always say that it was cold — really, really cold. Even with all our cold weather gear, we were cold. After we laughed about the weather, I told people what we saw as we walked to the rally with thousands of other people.
There were students of all ages holding signs and chanting. The adults admired the students’ creativity and commitment. Medical professionals in white lab coats stood together. Church groups took pictures in front of the crowds. People stood and clapped as the Majory Stoneman Douglas Chicago alumni walked by with a banner announcing their school pride. Street performers entertained the crowds headed towards Union Park.
It was an amazing mix of people who came together to share stories, support the student organizers and take a stand against gun violence. The rally before the march brought all these people together to hear students from across the Chicagoland area tell their stories.
The student speakers spoke of experiences unique to their generation. Trigger Warning, an award-winning poem, was performed by four Hinsdale Central students — Ellie Pena, Amani Mryan, Kai Foster and Ayana Otokiti. Caitlyn Smith, a 12-year-old Chicago Heights girl, spoke about her brother’s death outside her former Englewood home. Eduardo Medel, Jones College Prep and Young Urban Professionals representative, talked about how gun violence touched him when he was very young. Jalen Kobayashi, Whitney Young High School, read his poem about Chicago called, “The Zoo.”
Each speaker was a stark reminder that their school experience was dramatically different from my own. When I was in elementary school, we did regular tornado drills. We ran into the halls, kneeled on the floor, put our heads against the lockers and put our hands on our heads. We stayed there until a teacher came by to correct our posture so we’d be safer if a tornado hit. Our daughters have mastered very different drills.
Our girls were very young when Sandy Hook happened. We were discussing how to tell them when they came home from school. They already knew what happened. Some of the older students had mobile devices. Their parents contacted them to make sure they were safe. The kids followed up by reading news reports. Teachers at the school went into lockdown — or what passed for lockdown at that point.
Our children have never known a world in which students were not killed in mass shootings. These events became part of their world when they were young. Now they are well-versed in ways to keep a shooter out of their classroom. It’s a terrible skill to master.
I asked our daughters if they wanted to attend the #Chicago March for Our Lives. They immediately said they wanted to do it and they wanted to bring friends.
There’s a saying on a Chicago History Museum wall that stuck with me from the moment I read it. “Democracy has to be born anew every generation, and education is its midwife” (John Dewey). I took the opportunity to talk about democracy as we planned our participation. We talked about the importance of listening. They didn’t have to agree with everything they heard and saw, but they did need to allow everyone to speak. They needed to consider both sides of an issue before making up their minds. They needed to allow for the possibility that new information might change their opinions. Mostly, we talked about the importance of participating in the democratic process. If we did not participate, then we allowed others to make decisions for us.
There were pro-gun advocates at the rally. They held signs, passed out materials and talked to rally participants. Most people walked by without acknowledging the counter-protestors. Others stopped to talk. It was a peaceful co-existence of differing opinions. It was exactly what democracy should be with two sides debating ideas in a public square.
There are many opportunities for families to get involved. There is a March for Science on April 14. The Chicago event, Speak Up For Science, happens at the Field Museum from 1:00 p.m. until 4:00 p.m. This is the follow-up to last year’s March for Science, which we attended with a vet student friend. If science isn’t your passion, how about the Tax March? The national day of action is Sunday, April 15. There are events happening from April 9 – 19. Chicago and Downers Grove events are on the calendar.
How will your family renew democracy? It is important for parents to teach children how to renew democracy. Our children are on their way to being our leaders. Let’s make sure they know how to use the gifts democracy creates.