It was a play date like you’ve never seen before. Moms Clean Air Force estimates 700 moms and kids gathered last month at Senate Park near Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., at a “play-in” for climate change solutions.
The D.C. Play-in for Climate Action was a peaceful way for parents from across the U.S. to gather in protest and to hear from leaders fighting against air pollution so that our children and future generations can breathe fresh, clean air.
This was my first Moms Clean Air Force experience. As parents of a 19-month-old boy, my husband and I knew this was a must-attend event. We anticipated the feeling of solidarity and wanted to see plenty of children with parents just as passionate about sparking change as we are. What we found was all that and more.
Sure, there were the hula-hoops and blow up globes, which our little guy thought were the greatest toys ever—for the day, at least. But there was also live music with dancing and hopeful messages, adults networking for cleanup days in their neighborhoods and dads planning play dates locally and to catch up at next year’s D.C. play-in. There were folks from big cities, small towns and sacred places in need of protection.
My toddler Liam was attracted like a magnet to native rights activist Casey Camp-Horinek and her grandchildren. Camp-Horinek is a member of the Ponco nation, an actor and a member of the Indigenous Environmental Network. When she spoke, Liam clapped his hands, and when her grandchildren stepped off stage, he wanted them to share his pinwheel, which spun in the hot sun.
As he played with Camp-Horinek’s granddaughters and us adults talked about the curiosity and wonder of childhood, I paused to replay in my mind the words she had shared with the crowd.
“We can preserve, protect and fulfill our sacred duties to live with respect in this wonderful creation. We have the power and responsibility for change,” Camp-Horinek said.
It’s a responsibility that connects us as parents.
“Our air, our food—it all has to do with our kids,” said Kalishia Mitchell, founder of A Brighter Side to ASD, a Virginia-based support group for parents and families of children with autism. “We need to start from the core and work on solutions.”
Mitchell and I spoke briefly, after adding our signatures to calls to our legislators to act on climate change. She regularly works to organize clean-up days and recruit local youth and neighbors to pick up trash around their homes. She attended the play-in with her two daughters, a niece, her friend’s children and her son Jequan Morgan, 21, who has autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
“I’m a mom of four children,” Mitchell said. “I have been an advocate when it comes to their education, their health, and I love them. I need to fight for my kids and all kids. We’re moms; we’re supposed to be doing for all kids so they have possibilities.”
Regardless of the place we work or the community we live in, the thread that ties us together is our children and our crucial work to safeguard their health and environment.
Betsy Lopez-Wagner is the Bilingual Press Secretary for Earth Justice.