It’s been a little over a month since the Women’s March. I was humbled and honored to have been part of the sister march in Miami, FL, and to this day still have not been able to wrap my mind around the magnitude of the experience. Today, I think about the energy and drive it took for all those who organized and motivated so many to speak up and express what they feel needs to happen in their communities. The Miami Women’s Rally team was amazing. They organized and got us all together in a matter of weeks. They were clear on their intentions and clear on how they hoped we would express our messages. I know I would not been able to write and speak without the assistance of Sandy, the person in charge of speakers. Being able to hold her hand while my heart was in my throat before I stepped on stage will be a memory and a moment of camaraderie that will live with me always. I am grateful to have had that experience and to be able to represent the issues that are important to MomsRising and policies that will help parents and their children. I thought I’d share the speech here with you, my MomsRising family. I hope it will inspire and continue to drive all of you to continue speaking up and pushing for the change you hope to see in your communities.
On Wednesday November 9th my husband held me in bed as I cried desperately. The last time I remember feeling that much dread and loss was when my cousin was murdered. The tears were there because I felt the weight and the pain and the knowledge that
Hate, fear and lack of understanding of one another as a community won.
I also held all of the families that I work with in my center in mind. I knew that they would reach out and wonder,
“What now? How do I tell my child about the outcome of the election?”
In that moment the healer needed healing,
I felt lost, overwhelmed, and like many of you frozen.
Today as I stand in front of you and after much thought
And more crying
I want all the parents, teachers, and caregivers in the audience to understand that social change and social justice is in your home. As parents and caregivers –
We can change our community.
We can change our culture.
We have a responsibility to raise citizens of the world that hold the values and principles that so many have spoken about today.
But how does one begin to take this action, to make sure that our youngest and most vulnerable citizens get a chance at changing our world.
First Parents need self-care and as a society we need to take care of the caregivers and parents. Children take their safety cues from their parents. The parent/child relationship creates the foundation for how safe we experience the world. If a parent is too stressed or overwhelmed then the child does not have a secure base.
Let me paint a picture:
A single mother with two children works paycheck to paycheck and one of her children gets sick. At this point she has to choose between her job and her sick child.
She is scared.
Her stress response is activated and instead of being loving and supportive she experiences her child’s sickness as a burden and a threat to their livelihood.
She is cold and unkind to her child, not because she is cruel or unfit
But because her circumstances place her in a scenario where she cannot be available for her child.
Now STOP and picture this single mother as a poor woman of color who has to manage racism, systemic financial inequality and violence only because of the color of her skin.
Our public policies need to change to support this mother. To support all parents!
The first 1000 days of a child’s life sets the foundation of a citizen’s mental and physical health. Policy makers need to invest in the first 1000 days of our youngest citizens and one easy way to do this is to care for the caregivers by looking into changing our laws.
Paid sick days need to be a right not a privilege. Paid Family Leave needs to be a right not a privilege. Quality Early Childhood Education needs to be a right not a privil
Second for us to have citizens in our community who have the ability to
Sit, wonder, debate and communicate with someone they disagree with or are different than the primarily skills they must master are empathy and emotional intelligence.
Empathy is the ability to see the world through someone else eyes. Emotional intelligence is the ability to label, tolerate, and recuperate from an emotion.
You- the parent, the teacher, extended family, coaches
You help children understand empathy when you are able to label and describe how you see their experience and emotions. If you are empathic with them they will learn.
You teach emotional intelligence to the child when you are able to label what they are feeling, sit with them while they calm down and then narrate and speak to them about what happened and what they can do the next time.
Work on this in your homes, in your schools, and within your circles and you will bring social change and social justice.
BUT in our policies there are many things we must change: Corporal Punishment is still a form of discipline in our school system in the state of Florida, how do we ask a child to not use force to solve a problem when we use force on them. We must change our School Discipline Policies- Zero Tolerance does not work!
In July at an educational summit at the White House they stated that 3,000,000 children get expelled or suspended in a school year which leads to
Increased drop-out rates, involvement with juvenile justice and ultimately incarceration.
In the 2014-2015 school year 43% of the suspensions in Florida where of black students, who make up about 23% of the student population versus
30% or white students who make up 40% of the student population.
The rates are always highest with students of color.
Our policies need to shift to building trauma informed schools and social emotional learning.
Rather than places where the student is broken into feeling that the world is not safe.
From today forward –
Parents, teachers, politicians- we must change these policies.
Everyone here - get to know your representatives, your school board members.
Join organizations like Mamas Con Poder and MomsRising.
We must see the future that lives in our homes.
Watch the speech: