NEW YORK 2003.
I don't know why I sent off an email to Mothers Acting Up saying that I would organize a Mother's Day parade for them in New York City that first year. I'd never organized anything public like it before. I hadn't ever been that active in the past either. But I saw the smiling joyful faces of Beth, Erica, Juliana and Joellen in their wild and crazy hats acting up at their first parade in Boulder 2002, and something inside of me knew that I had to bring some of that joy in acting up to the streets of New York City.
A year earlier in September of 2001, I had given birth to my first born son just a few short days after 9/11 in New York City. The experience was shattering, traumatizing, life-changing. But most of all, I will never forget how very difficult it was to be unable to share the overwhelming joy of my new motherhood with family and friends- who were unable to fly to greet the new baby from overseas, or my neighbours- unable to smile in their shock and grief for what seemed like the longest time.
In the months that followed as I recovered and family and friends started trickling in my home as they dared to brave airplane travel again, I started thinking of the mothers of the terrorists. What were they thinking? How were they feeling? Is this really what they wanted for their children? How are they coping with their grief at their loss? Dare they grieve? Night after night I would sit in my rocking chair nursing my son and looking up at the moon thinking of them and all the other mothers across the world nursing their babies at exactly the same time. I knew I had to do something to bring people together. I knew I had to do something for my children, but I had no idea what I could do.
When the war in Iraq started, people began to descend on New York and angrily pace our streets with anti-war chants and anti-bush sentiment. Though I agreed with them I could not stand to see so much hatred spill out over our already scarred city. And I did not feel safe taking my son to any rally down there either.
Then, with a burning passion to do something but no idea what, I started an internet search and came across Mothers Acting Up through a link on the National Council of Churches website. As soon as I saw their parade photos I knew I had found what I was looking for. It was like an instant attraction. They hooked me and I've never let go since.
And so, with no experience of event organization, public planning or political activism behind me, only a burning passion, nay NEED to do something fun and spirited. I signed up. I shared my vision to unite diverse populations of mothers and others in one goal and I told them I'd do a parade for them in NYC.
What followed was a frenzied blur of activity and emails and conference calls as I realized there were other mothers out there wanting to do something and all learning at the same pace that I was. Their energy kept me moving forward. I was put in touch with another mother in NY and together we began to plan a march on the sidewalk from Washington Square Park to Union Square. We had a band and a speaker that my new friend had put together. With her contacts in NY we also had professional stiltwalkers/stilt dancers that attracted much attention. Most importantly we had an information table, which passersby could come to, grab a button, information on MAU and information on how to act up.
It was an anti-war/pro-peace rally with an enormous difference. It was filled with children and mothers and smiling and dancing and singing. We put an enormous amount of money and energy into it, and even though we spent much more than we could afford to, it was tremendously successful: we were even recorded as being one of the many events/ groups working to heal NY after 9/11 on some documentary (I can't remember the name of!) which was exactly how I saw what we were doing.
Ever since NY, I have seen the healing potential of these mother's day parades and how they bring people together. They are empowering, they are spirited and as far as I'm concerned divine. From my experience at this first parade in NY in 2003, to hearing about the Israeli and Palestinian mothers coming together on Mother's day in Jerusalem in 2005, to my long term dream of peaceful unity in Northern Ireland. NOW, I aim to have a parade of catholic and protestant mothers walking joyfully and peacefully in unison on the streets of Belfast. A tall order?! Not at all. If I can go from no event experience to organizing a parade in Union Square in New York City then I can do anything, especially with the support of the mothers at MAU behind me. To be honest, being a mother is still much more challenging than planning that event or anything else I do with MAU!
The trick I've discovered, is to take our personal pain, our distress, our outrage at the world the way it is and transform it bit by bit and piece by piece into a feeling of joy and hope
, as we begin to start envisioning and then working to transform the world into what we want it to be instead.
Tina is currently working to achieve her dreams as MAU's International Outreach Coordinator and the mum behind MAU UK. For all the juicy details on how to reclaim Mother's Day in the US, go here. To contact Tina and get the the scoop on Mothering Sunday, MAU style: www.mothersactingup.org.uk