Ruby, worn out at the end of a long Pennies in Protest organizational meeting, accuses her mother of being "mean to Haiti" after her 9,000,000th petition for donations to her collection is denied (many of the previous petitions were responded to generously).
I am WAY far behind on posts - despite whatever the date header up there says, it is actually March 13th and I have just updated blog entries as far back as Feb 14th, and still have everything after this one to go. The last week's worth of activism included state education budget protests, a strongly-but-kindly worded letter to delegate Bob Marshall, and then an organized counterprotest effort against Westboro Baptist Church.
You can read about the incredible Pennies in Protest community effort here:♦ Pennies in Protest website / Chip-In page
♦ Pennies in Protest Facebook page
♦ Spark: what the world needs now is YOU
♦ Spark: love in action
♦ Spark: kindness changes everything
♦ Spark: peace
♦ Spark: objective
♦ Spark: trickle
Media & blogs here:♦ Times-Dispatch article, links to previous coverage
♦ Channel 12 article
♦ Times-Dispatch: lost opportunity for McDonnell
♦ Fan Free Clinic letter to PiP/ donors
♦ Gay RVA: RVA comes together
♦ U of R Collegian update
♦ Dallas Voice: an intriguing approach
♦ video of Jay Ipson speaking to counterprotesters
♦ kindnessgirl: pennies of love
♦ ALR: turning hate into change
♦ Kids of Queers: Pennies in Protest
♦ Learn.Play.Blog.: a young perspective
♦ The Richmonder coverage, photos
♦ Buttermilk & Molasses: give a penny...
♦ Late Enough: how to love the hate
♦ theloushe (me) flickr set
♦ kindnessgirl (Patience) flickr set
♦ items tagged "WBC protests Richmond" on flickr
♦ PiP thank-you note to WBC
I am SO AMAZINGLY GRATEFUL to the THOUSANDS of people - literally, thousands - who supported this in one way or another. Parents talked to their kids about hatred, kindness, and tolerance. Friends posted links and talked PiP up to other friends. Donations poured in beyond our wildest dreams. We thought this would be a small collection among a few friends. Hey, maybe if we were really lucky, a few other people would join and - haha - maybe we could reach $1K, wouldn't that be cool? We were not at all prepared for 2,000+ Facebook followers, buzz all over Twitter and Richmond, media attention extending outside Virginia, and, get this: over $14,000 in contributions made either directly to our site, handed to us in person, or donated to local organizations on behalf of PiP.
What is far, far better than that (although the money will do a lot of good in Richmond!) is that we stood up to bullies. Did the bullies like the attention? You betcha. I don't care. I'm not interested in the glee of hateful people. I do care about the hundreds of people who stood shoulder to shoulder with our local Jewish and LGBTQ communities. I care about the notes we received from them about Rabbis watching the Facebook numbers growing, and about the way people whose cultural predecessors and/or relatives were slaughtered in the Holocaust felt love and support from their community in the face of extreme prejudice. I care about the huge crowd of happy faces at VCU, proud of their own sexuality, whatever it may be. I care about the teenagers at Hermitage High School who saw that although four people showed up to tell them they're going to burn in hell,
Four friends, social media, five days. Nobody can ever tell me that one person can't make a difference. Every single person who participated in this outpouring of kindness is one person who knew another single person. I don't consider myself to be terribly popular or well-connected, but look how this thing spread outward from us, and how eager people are to DO SOMETHING! Richmond and friends of Richmond, you are wonderful.
..but somebody asked me about the personal side of things, how this whole thing got started. For me, it started from the feeling that I haven't been taking enough interest in social activism. I frequently disagree with something but apathy or low energy or poor organization or procrastination prevent me from writing a letter, attending a protest, volunteering for worthy organizations, etc. I believe in nonviolence, which means more than simply physical nonviolence. I believe in standing up for what is morally right, and my own moral code tells me that one of the most basic aspects of being a good person is defending the rights of other people - their bodily integrity, their autonomy, and also engaging in respectful discourse rather than banning expression or engaging in activities based in intolerance and ignorance.
I have never, that I can remember, participated in a protest rally until the one last week at the General Assembly Building. Economic times are tough, but state legislators are protecting their corporate buddies and slashing funding for the arts and education. I had hired a sitter for some alone time during Dan's work weekend, and decided to use that time to attend the rally. It felt like the responsible choice and I am really proud to have added one more person to that effort.
Riding that sense of responsibility and thinking about what I want to model for my children, I felt the need to do something when in one week, our governor wiped sexual orientation from an executive order listing factors that may not be used to discriminate against people in the workplace, and then the crazy Westboro Baptist Church was about to roll into town. I am ANGRY that anybody, anywhere would think that a person is less than fully human and fully deserving of respect and protection under the law for something as idiotic as who they're attracted to. It is equally enraging to me that religion is used to discriminate both for and against people. Religious language should not be included in the law (as it often is in Virginia) and religious belief should not result in a person being persecuted (as it does for WBC). This is INSANE, it's inhumane, and it would be irresponsible for me to sit at home and think dark thoughts about right-wing legislators and religious nut jobs.
On Thursday night, after learning of the planned WBC visit, three of my friends and I found ourselves on Facebook and Twitter at the same time, discussing back and forth how heartsick their message of hatred caused us to feel and our need to react in a positive, community-building way. We disagreed on what was best - absurdist counterprotest signs or love messages? Personal preference or behind-the-scenes work? Address the WBC picketers or address the rest of the community? Raise money? Acts of kindness around the community? We agreed that sitting on our thumbs was not an option. A friend of Sarah's linked her to an article about his synagogue in Manhattan and the pledge drive they ran in response to a WBC protest there. Genius. Maybe we could do something on a smaller scale? On Friday morning, Sarah made a site and Facebook page, Sara named our fledgling group, Patience and I got to work on the social media blitz. Sarah works in PR and has the knowledge and the resources to go with it, and drafted a press release and sent it to something like 3,000 media outlets. We contacted organizers of direct protests, we talked to the organizations being picketed.
By Friday night we had already raised over $1,000. Saturday and Sunday were a blur of phone calls, tweets, emails, and a meeting at my house. The numbers hit a lull on Sunday morning but then kept climbing steadily. Monday came. The press started calling. Donations were pouring in. Sarah and I did local news interviews and she interviewed with radio stations here and in Los Angeles. The word was spreading, and the coolest thing was how much ownership everybody was feeling! The word "we" was everywhere, people felt so empowered to be able to take their sense of revulsion at what the WBC was doing and turn it into support for their community. Everybody was watching the numbers, talking about Tuesday. It was AMAZING.
Tuesday hit hard, and I still can't really put it all into words, except this: the WBC people disgust me but gave me a lot of insight into their particular kind of fundamentalism and also strengthened my resolve to raise compassionate children. And the strength of my local community is something beautiful to see. I watched a man who survived the holocaust stride purposefully up to the picketers and invite them into his museum to see a picture of him lined up for selection for execution. I heard him respond with conviction and patience to their taunts and their praise of history's genocidal leaders. He and the people surrounding him that day give me hope. The out-and-proud kids at VCU and at Hermitage give me hope as well. NOTHING like this was happening two decades ago when I was their age. Today we stand up to the WBC. Tomorrow we stand up to the more insidious everyday bullies like Governor McDonnell and Ken Cuccinelli. I hope Richmond will say YES to the challenge in this RTD editorial. I know we have it in us.
This is long and rambly and I'm clearly still processing (keep in mind it's back-dated, I'm writing on March 13th). If you came along with us on this journey, I'd love to hear what you're thinking and feeling, and how you're working for justice in your own community.