“I marched so that my children and grandchildren would have equality.”
—Anita E. Baldwin
While attending a protest with my kids, we were standing around waiting for the “marching” part to begin. My middle child asked me what we were doing—meaning what were we waiting for in that moment, and when were things going to begin? My youngest (who was just beginning to gain some words) piped up, “We’re marshing!” with as much enthusiasm as she could muster.
When my mom marched in the 1960s, she not only marched for herself and others; she also marched for the kids and grandkids she might one day have. She believed that the sit-ins and protests would give her future family an equality that she didn’t have. She didn’t realize that we, her descendants, would one day march for those same rights.
Mom was saddened when I took my children to protest. She felt like she had let us down, and that her protesting and sit-ins and refusing to sit at the back of the bus were all for nothing. Why did she do all of that for us when we’re still protesting for the same rights she protested for all those years ago?
I often wonder about how, or if, things have really changed. I know that things are different—but inequality’s head is still reared in many ways. I wonder if my children will take my grandkids to march and protest for the same rights I protest over today. Will things change and look different, but still be there? Will I, like my mother, lament over failed efforts to bring about equity and justice? At what point does true change take effect?
For me, the answer is that people of color—and other marginalized people—can’t just want things to be different. It has to be everyone doing this work, no matter how uncomfortable or mundane or monotonous. It has to be everyone wanting things to be different for everyone.
Great Spirit of Life: May we live a life that is not in vain. May our works and deeds have meaning. May the path that our ancestors tread, that we follow and leave for others, lead to true equity and justice.