our town

Images Cinema hosted a screening of “Not in Our Town” presented by Greylock Together (a local activism group). I took notes during the post-film discussion, and here’s what I came away with:

~ In order to prevent and address hate crimes in our community, everyone needs to take responsibility for what happens and be present for one another. This makes everyone safer.

~ We need total commitment from police and political leaders to respond to hate crimes when they happen.

~ We need more Black Lives Matter signs. These small symbols of acceptance and unity work best when EVERYONE has them. If there are only a few, and one gets stolen or vandalized, people might be nervous to put them out. If every house has one, it shows that we all support the movement and believe that Black Lives Matter and the vandals would see that they are outnumbered.

This feels like a really important note. Having a sign in our yards, or a decal in our windows, is such a small and simple (and inexpensive) act. But a large number of people displaying these signs makes such a big statement. We can say, “Of course most of Williamstown supports the Black Lives Matter movement,” but if there are only a few signs scattered around town, it doesn’t really look like it. This is a very important time. We are a mostly white town. We need to show our support, to ally ourselves, to use our privilege for good. It’s really easy to get a sign. There’s no good reason not to. Imagine if every lawn had a Black Lives Matter sign. And a rainbow flag. And Welcome signs written in Arabic and Hebrew and Spanish. What a big statement that would make to the rest of the country.  

~ When someone has been targeted or made a victim of hate crimes, we need to ask, “How can I support you?” And then show up for them.

~ We all have to work on the subtle, underlying feelings of hate/racism/sexism/bigotry in order to prevent bigger incidents.

~ To be supportive means to take deliberate and concrete action.

~ We need public displays of holidays from different religions/cultures, not just Christmas.

~ We need a blanket visual symbol to use throughout the county, unifying us with the other nearby towns instead of keeping ourselves so separate.

 

you don’t have to be a gun

Today I took Baby Smokey on his first peaceful demonstration. It was a short, quiet gathering and walk down our town’s main street, with some speakers, some poetry, orange hats and bells. We were walking to bring attention, to say that we have had enough, that we are asking questions, that something needs to be done about this gun culture, this gun violence in our country. I participated for myself, my community, my world, and my baby. I don’t ever want him to be afraid to go to school, or to a movie theater, or anywhere.

I felt a bit of Mama with me, my first activist. She brought me to Martin Luther King Jr. celebrations, Latina heritage conferences, her ESL classrooms where I met kids and their families from all over the world. She taught me that education is a better weapon than any gun, that we should not fear what we don’t understand, but instead learn. I still have her “No Nukes” pin on a corduroy jacket.

Earlier this afternoon we went to a screening of The Iron Giant at the local movie theater where I work. It was my first time seeing the film, originally from 1999, and I was enraptured. The main themes seemed to be: “don’t fear what you don’t understand,” and “you don’t have to be a gun.” Such relevant themes in our current world. The giant metal robot who is the title character is sweet and curious, but has a defense mechanism which causes him to react violently when someone points a gun at him. He automatically turns into a deadly weapon, defending himself against his attackers, and perpetuating more violence. But the hero of the story, a young boy named Hogarth, tells him, “Killing is bad. You don’t have to be a gun. You are who you choose to be.” So the giant learns to overcome his automatic reaction, instead becoming a peaceful hero– showing everyone that even though he looks big and scary, he is a kind soul who does not want to cause harm.

All of this feels so in sync, threads of a bigger idea. On Friday we found out that our little growing human is a boy. I have a son. It’s a strange phrase to utter, “I have a son.” I only really know about being a girl. My dad said to me, “Whether you and your sister were boys or girls, we wouldn’t have raised you any differently.” There is so much to teach my son, and for him to teach me. He will be the coolest boy, the most awesome boy, our boy. And I can’t wait to meet him.