I Was A Brick In Portland’s Protesting Wall of Moms

Just another brick in the wall: What we can learn from moms of every color about activism and love

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Moms Protect and Serve, photo by Christyl Rivers

What I noticed most upon arriving in Portland from the Seattle area were people — primarily women — picking up garbage. They also had small set ups to provide water, food, band aids, sanitizers, and more.

Much later, after I slipped into my “Auntie FA-nny” yellow t-shirt, (we’re against A — — — s)when the flash bangs, armed militia, and tear gas fogged the block, one attentive mom of color offered me earplugs.

“No thanks,” I yelled into the swirling din, “I already have my own.”

Moms, and women in general, look out for everybody, no matter their color, age, body, shape, or politics. It is an honor and very much a privilege to be here among them.

My partner and I did have most of the things we needed. Eye goggles, masks, plenty of sanitizer, detailed briefings on how to deal with tear gas and projectiles. The Black and Latino moms seemed even better prepared.

Such moms have something that many of the younger kids — mostly young men — did not. We had the maturity and wisdom that only comes from having lived long enough to learn that most of what your mom teaches you is not only true, but can save your life:

Pay attention
Walk, don’t run
Be kind to others
Take turns
Listen
Don’t throw things
Clean up your mess
Watch your temper
Slow down and pay attention

Most importantly, if some bully starts a fight, don’t let him provoke you. Stay cool, fool! As my mom tried to teach my brothers and I.

There is no question that in Portland, Oregon, and other cities, hot-headed young males who start fires, loot, or break windows, are working for a certain Donald J. Trump. Trump is older than we are, and perhaps even more experienced in having learned that you can take the actions of others, however justified, and twist them into a specious “law and order” narrative that hurts victims, and historically targets Black people.

There is an army of heavily armored and armed men with guns threatening people across America, but just like your mother probably taught you “People won’t stop and ask who started the fight. You are both going to the principal’s office. ”

Some boys don’t help the situation with profanity and throwing bottles, but I am not going to trash any of the demonstrators any more than they already have been.

In the long haul, moms are here to help, to support a fight against racism, and to protect in any way we can.

A wonderful mom I linked arms with wore a sunshine, yellow Wonder Woman t-shirt. She has it right. Moms are forever the unsung heroes. Even if we don’t wear red, white and blue bustiers in hour glass figures, we are out there fighting the baddies.

I noticed that the women were working almost every second. The boys, and even some men, were mostly standing around. I don’t think this is because that men care less. I think it is because women are socialized to pay close attention to what work needs doing. Then, even without magic bracelets, they dig in. Moms are especially good at this.

When a man does find something useful, for example, tuning up the leaf blowers to return tear gas fire back in the direction it came from, they do earn the credit that they deserve. But whereas a man loves to tinker with machines and gadgets, women find work to do because the work is endless, and always there. My husband for example, deserves big credit for making sure we had goggles, dealing with google maps, multiple device apps, and charting wind directions.

Without him, it may not have occurred to me to make sure we stood where the wind blew clouds of tear gas in the subtly changing directions amid the fog and bubbles, of the scene.

Oh, did I mention the Lawrence Welk style bubbles? More than one woman had bubble machines that wafted tension relieving rainbow spheres merrily floating among the choking smoke and gas clouds.

Another job for women is to keep the kiddies entertained, amused, comforted, and calmed.

That way, the focus can stay on Black Lives.

Other men, notably med techs, veterans, doctors, and “leaf blower dads” helped, but all of these jobs were also performed by some moms.

Decked out, with bicycle helmets adorned sunny sunflowers, some with gas masks, the fierce moms had clever signs and t-shirts in white or yellow. “Mama bear” “Use your indoor voice, Mr. President.” “Hey Feds, leave those kids alone!” “Moms protect and serve the best.” “You wanted a wall, Mr. President, here we are.” “Time for a time-out.”

There were also more serious pleas, such as: “Amplify Black voices” and “Don’t hurt my kid” and the ubiquitous “BLACK LIVES MATTER!”

I saw it on a sign in Portland, so it must be true.

As a lifelong feminist, I was so proud of all these women who just show up. There were just as many women as men, and I think this reflects ever more evolving attitudes about equality. More than half of us are BIPOC, and we DO see race, as something we must learn to talk about with our indoor voices.

There were women there with children and pets, but they were always careful to keep them far from danger as they could.

Some people complained about white moms stealing the narrative and focus, but most people were wildly appreciative of the many moms, whatever hue we are. One beaming young Black man handed me a rose, thanked me for being there, and even said “Bless you,” to a hardened heathen like me.

I don’t think the focus is lost when equality is always the goal.

We were finally baptized with tear gas after 11pm on Saturday June 25. Thanks to my three masks, bandana and goggles, very little irritant got through. But what did get through was a sense of righteous indignation.

Whatever side of the political fence you stand upon, it’s simply un-American to shower peaceful protestors with tear gas, pepper spray, projectiles, and indifference. It is never lost on a feminist that a powerful man can hire less powerful men to do his dirty work. And they do it.

We were only in Portland for three days. Many of these anti-racist warriors have been there for over two months. I respect the hell out of them.

What lessons can we take away from what is happening to our world right now? I think given the added burden and stressors of COVID-19, the concerns about money and employment, who will educate our children, hurricanes bearing down and trouble to come, PLUS a bitter battle for equality, we can all learn toughness, resilience, determination, and nurturing from moms of every kind.

We should have known all along how much load they carry. But now it is more crystal clear than ever. Mothers, daughters, Aunties (Fa or Nah) co-workers of yours, are fighting with courage to try and raise an ever better global village.

If you have a mom, call her, hug her, tell her you love her. Thank her for her service.

Above all, I implore you. Listen to your mom.

Written by

Ecopsychologist, Writer, Farmer, Defender of reality, and Cat Castle Custodian.

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