Last week I traveled to Washington D.C. to participate in the National Stroller Brigade for Safe Chemicals. It’s difficult to put into words how it felt to be surrounded by hundreds of other people (mothers, cancer survivors, nurses, steel workers) all fighting for healthier policies for our families. In the past, I’ve found myself feeling isolated from time to time, as a department of one, sitting in my cubicle in Oakland, CA, wondering if my efforts were making a dent in the broader goal to prevent exposures to toxic chemicals. As a working mom of two and a mother-to-be, I’ve found myself wondering, on those difficult days (we’ve all had them) whether what I do, as just one mom, makes any difference.
Attending the National Stroller Brigade, organized by the Safer Chemicals Healthy Families Coalition, was just the shot in the arm I needed. Not only did I get the chance to stand shoulder to shoulder with other concerned moms, just like me, from all over the country, but I also got to hear their stories. Some were heartbreaking, like the story of Polly Schlaff of Michigan, a mother of three boys who lost her husband to cancer at age 35. Others were inspiring, like the story of small-business owner Christy Funk, part of our California delegation, who after years as a professional makeup artist in Hollywood, decided to open her own boutique offering eco-friendly mom and baby products because she saw there was a deep need in the community for not only non-toxic products, but also information on how parents can protect themselves and their families from harmful chemicals.
The day began with a press conference on the lawn opposite the Supreme Court Building. Each of the state delegations held custom-made license plate signs with slogans like “STRL BRGAD” or “MOMS4SAFTY”. The atmosphere was charged as we gathered there on the lawn, listening to Andy Igregis of Safer Chemicals Healthy Families, bill author Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), and Chuck Schumer (D-NY), and moms Polly Schlaff and Hannah Pingree speak at the press conference. They thanked the moms in attendance for making the trip to Washington. They called on Congress to act in the interests of our families’ health. With each round of applause and shaking of raised fists we were joined even closer in a bond of solidarity. I’ll bet our collective cheers were heard clear across the Capitol. After the press conference was over, we formed a parade of sorts, cheering, brandishing signs, and made our way over to the Senate Building, where we would meet our respective senators, to either thank them for or urge their support of The Safe Chemicals Act.
I’m so grateful for the opportunity to get out from behind my desk and get out on the grass, quite literally, to watch the growing of a movement. I returned home with a renewed sense of community and sisterhood. I look forward to growing the relationships with the strong women I met in Washington (shout outs to my new friends with Toxic Free NC, EnvironmentalBooty, FlourSackMama, MindfulMomma, GroovyGreenLivin’, and Big Green Purse). My trip to D.C. rooted firmly in me the belief that it’s not just what one mom can do, but it’s what we all can do together. And as it turns out, the answer to that is ANYTHING. Watch out, Washington. We’ll be back!
You can check out a video of the press conference here.