First off, a disclaimer: I am no expert. There are men and women who have been working and protesting and community organizing for many years and I am most certainly a newbie. So the thoughts and questions and conversations here are not polished and not really written from much experience. Rather, they are a humble offering to you as a result of searching for the words and stories to help educate my own two budding activists. In addition, these are words offered from a Christian faith and worldview that to our family is the foundation for all we do.
When plans for a women’s march in my local city were announced shortly after the 2016 Presidential Election, I knew I had to be there. Feeling naïve and frustrated and powerless and frankly scared, putting my feet and my voice to work seemed at least some small action I could take to voice my feelings. I wanted to bring my daughters with me, and my husband also asked if he could come and support the cause.
As we are now a week away from the event, I decided it was time to have some of the why conversations with my daughters. And also to prepare them for what they might see and experience along the march route. I went searching online for some resources, and came up pretty empty-handed. (If you have resources that I didn’t find, PLEASE leave them in a comment and I’ll include them in a list at the bottom of this post.)
As a family, our Christian faith deeply influences our choices. And it is from this perspective that I want to enter into a protest march as well. So here are a few conversation starters I put together to share as a family as we prepare to march. You do not have to be Christian to use this material. In addition, these are humbly offered as starters, if your children are anything like mine their questions and insights will lead the conversation to beautiful, challenging, and humbling places and may even offer you more opportunities to learn together.
A few notes before you dive in:
- These conversation guides are written for my family, of which I have myself and my husband (both cisgender) and two school-aged daughters. Feel free to adjust the conversations and the questions for your family dynamic, these are simply a starting place. For example, if you have older children you could talk about sex trafficking or female genintal mutilation. You could also share this resource with your older children and encourage them to pick one and lead a family conversation.
- These conversation guides are written specifically for the women’s march taking place January 21, 2017. But of course they can be adapted for any protest your family may be involved in.
- You do not actually have to be taking your children to march with you to have a conversation with them. Actually, you should have a conversation with them if you are going, they need to know why this is important to you. And if you are unable to attend at all, these are still great conversations to have because this protest is a news-worthy event.
Conversation #1: Justice for Women
Ask: In what ways are girls/women treated unfairly here in America?
Ask: Have you ever felt treated unfairly because you are a girl? or Have you ever treated someone unfairly because she is a girl? or Have you ever witnessed a girl being treated unfairly because she is a girl?
Ask: What does the phrase you throw like a girl mean? Is it meant to be a compliment? Have you heard any other phrases that insult girls like that?
Ask: How do you think God feels about people being treated unfairly?
Study a Bible Passages: How Jesus treated Women (chose one or more)
- Speaks with the woman at the well (John 4:1-42)
- Interacts with the crowd and the woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11)
- Reveals himself to Mary at the tomb (John 20: 1-18)
- Blesses the woman who anoints his feet (Luke 7:36-50)
Ask: Why is it important that boys and girls, men and women, everyone, is treated fairly?
Discuss: One of the reasons for marching is that when a large group of people get together, the leaders in charge learn what is really important to the people they serve. To us, it is important that women are treated fairly. That women are treated with justice here and throughout the world.
Ask: What specific message would you share with important leaders about how or why girls should be treated equally?
Make: Create posters together with the important messages your children want to share.
Or here are some suggestions for posters/signs with Bible verses about justice:
- “Let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like an never-failing stream.” Amos 5:24
- “Hold fast to love and justice.” Hosea 12:6 (partial verse)
- “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed. Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless, and see that they get justice.” Proverbs 31:8
- “Seek justice, love mercy, walk humbly” from Micah 6:8
- “Whoever sows injustice will reap calamity, and the rod of his fury will fail.” Proverbs 22:8
- “Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.” Isaiah 1:17
- “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9 (As quoted by Hilary Clinton in her speech following the election results.)
Conversation #2: Signs and Symbols
Activity: Google search “Women’s March Poster Ideas.” Look at the images together. (You may want to pre-search and be prepared for what you’ll find. There are images of women’s bodies, including breasts and reproductive organs. There are posters with the word “pussy.” There are other terms they may not be familiar with. As your children will likely see posters of all types at the march, having conversations ahead of time will prepare you all.)
Ask: What images/messages appeal to you? What images/messages are confusing?
Discuss: You are in charge here with what you want to share with your children about the messages being promoted.
Note: There are likely march partners with views not shared by your family. How do your values influence how you should treat people with differing views? Can you still march together? Can you find common ground?
Conversation #3: Protest as Disruption
Ask: What do you know about the protests of the civil rights movement? What activities did they engage in? (Suggestions: marches, sit-ins, rallies, boycotts, etc. Overall, they were peaceful activities.) What do you know about the leaders of the civil rights movement?
Watch: this great video from Kid President about Martin Luther King, Jr. Also, I haven’t watched it but heard from a great source that this full length movie, The Watsons Go To Birmingham, is a great primer on the civil rights movement as well. If you have older children, Selma is an excellent movie to watch together.
Discuss: Martin Luther King Jr. is a famous leader of the civil rights movement. But he was also a Reverend, or a Pastor. Reverend King’s faith influenced everything he did, including the work he did to fight for civil rights. He had faith and prayed and preached about God’s love for everyone. His belief in non-violence to promote change was based in his Christian belief that we are to love our enemies and forgive those who hurt us.
Ask: How should our faith influence us to work for change when we see things that are wrong?
Ask: Will it be easy to fight for change? (This would be a great time to remind your kids that they will likely face some challenges on march day, that they will be tired and hungry and that their feet will hurt. Ask them what they should do when they get tired and want to give up.)
Discuss: Fighting for change is hard work and takes a lot of time. And you may have people who disagree with you. Powerful people didn’t want the change that civil rights leaders were fighting for, and powerful people never like change because that means they will have to lose some of their power.
Ask: What does the phrase “speaking truth to power” mean to you? How does that describe protesting?
Discuss: Protest is about interruption. Sometimes it makes people uncomfortable or angry because it interrupts their comfortable lives. Remember, we are gathering with a large group of people who have permission to shut down areas of a city and walk on the road. This will interrupt people who had plans to drive on that road! But God is no stranger to interruption: that’s what God did with Jesus. Jesus came to our earth to interrupt our comfortable lives and teach us how to love and serve him and one another.
Ask: How would you respond if someone argued with you that you shouldn’t be protesting?
Pray. Spend some time this week praying as a family. And pray as you head out for the protest. And then when you get home.
My prayer for you is that this sparks within you a hunger to learn and to grow and to engage in healthy dialogue around issues that matter to you and your family. May you have courage to invite your children into the journey with you.
- Faith Matters: Prayer and Protest by Terry Robinson
- Why so many American Christians Don’t Understand Protest by Leah Pannell
- Activist Mama’s Guide to Taking Kids to a March by Jenn Sutherland-Miller and Jenni Mahnaz