“It’s all about the kids. We came to the ‘Play-In’ in Washington DC for their health, their earth. All kids need and deserve clean air and clean water. We’re here to speak up for the children’s right to a healthy environment.” ~ a mom from Chicago
As the celebrations began, a smiling policeman on a bike pedaled by as he watched the children and their parents playing on the Capital lawn. He nodded his head approvingly and said, “We need this.”These are trying times — so much violence in the world, so much pollution in the air. (Tweet this)
That’s why, on July 13, 2016, along with over 700 other moms, dads, grandparents, and kids, I went to Washington, D.C, from my home in New York, to the Mom’s Clean Air Force Play-In for Climate Action. I needed to be with the kids — see their smiles, hear their laughter, listen to their wise words, and get a hug or two.
As a mom, teacher and activist, I know environmental actions, especially when children are involved, need to be informative, celebratory, community-oriented and creative. They need to be inclusive of all ages, races, colors, and genders. They need to be fun.
The Mom’s Clean Air Force Play-In at the Capitol was ‘all of the above.’
When I arrived that morning just after 9 a.m., the lawn where the Mom’s Clean Air Force posse had congregated under the dome of the Capitol was jam-packed with laughter, happy chatter, and playful kids.
Families came from all fifty states! A few large groups of children came to the event from as far away as Long Island, New York, Mississippi and Chicago.
I spoke with one teenager, a tall high school student, Gloria, from Chicago, who plans to major in Environmental Studies in college. She told me, “It’s thrilling to be here in Washington DC. It’s my first time. I can’t wait to hear the Senators speak and to advocate later in the day for clean air on the Hill. This is an unforgettable opportunity.”
A pre-teen from Long Island, New York, Tatiana, stated that she came to the Play In, “Because I have asthma. We have to get rid of the toxins in the air.”
“I want to be a chemist,” ten-year old Carlos from New York said to me. “Pollution is causing respiratory diseases. There things we can do to make a difference. Like stopping car and bus idling.”
Rev. Dr. A. Lincoln James Jr. opened the Play In with an interfaith invocation. Inspiring leaders in the field followed:
- Dr. Heidi Cullen, Chief Scientist for Climate Central
- Senator Tom Udall (New Mexico)
- Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (Rhode Island)
- Casey-Camp-Horinek, member of the Ponca nation of Oklahoma, actor, native rights activist and member of the Indigenous Environmental Network
- Dr. Erica L. Holloman Coordinator for the Southeast CARE Coalition
- Chamique Holdsclaw, Olympic gold medalist, basketball legend, and mental health advocate
- Dominique Browning, co-founder and senior director, Moms Clean Air Force
Yoga for kids, hula hooping, and dancing with larger-than-life puppets added to the celebrations.
When Senator Udall took the podium, he thanked the moms. Everyone cheered. He said, “We have hope. Moms Clean Air brought us the model. If we all work together, we can solve global warming.”
Senator Sheldon Whitehouse told the audience of the need for honest accountability when it comes to pollution, carbon emissions, and climate change. With a number of other Senators from a variety of states, he had just spent the week calling out Exxon and the oil industry for denying the truth of climate science.
After he spoke, Senator Whitehouse shook hands with the kids and gave hugs, and gave me a fist bump as I thanked him for his good work.
When it was all over, I left with my heart full. We all did. And, as many of the parents told me, “It’s all about the kids.”
Photos: Ralph Alswang