As I watch my children play and laugh, I can’t help but think of the thousands of children suffering in detention at the US-Mexico border. In their days, do they have a chance to run and jump? Do they chuckle and laugh? Do they play?
For the motivating logic of deterring unauthorized crossing of the US-Mexico border, the current US administration has been trying to lift the “Flores Agreement” that limits the time children can spend in detention and upholds standards for migrant families in holding facilities. The repeal of the agreement would make detention for migrant children and families indefinite. The children held in subhuman detention facilities would grow up without room to run, without a possibility to play, without a possibility to reunite with their family members. The vilification of migrants, children and parents, erases the systems of power that induced forced migration from Central and Latin America and the broken immigration system in the US.
In the wake of youth leading global strikes to bring the world’s climate crisis to an end and a landmark lawsuit that follows, I’ve been racking my brain on how to include my kids, my friends’ kids, my friends who don’t have kids towards organizing and actions that connect us to a common experience of familial relations, both biological and chosen.
In response to continued migrant family separation, the Bay Area Families Solidarity Network initiated playdate protests to bring attention to this issue and, specifically to demand Amazon and Whole Foods to stop storing information to aid the detention and deportation of immigrant families.
Connie, the care provider and educator at Carabao Kids, a social-justice oriented daycare, which both my children have been and are enrolled in, was inspired to gather parents, families and community members to create solidarity around this issue. Over the span of a month, we planned and organized a child-focused, family-friendly action.
In an effort to connect the humanity of children and families separated by ICE to our own families, and also to explain this urgent issue to our children, Connie crafted songs and a puppet show to explain the issue of detention and separation to children and families. Katrina and Isabella played guitars and sang remixed lyrics to nursery rhymes. Volunteers puppeteer hand crafted puppets that featured a orange-haired dinosaur, Amazon alien and an ICE penguin.
We asked amazing speakers to offer speeches in poem and story to address the children and their families. Irman Arcibal, a local high school teacher, shared a beautiful poem about brown skins and the types of exclusion brown people experience. Joan Salvador from GABRIELA Philippines shared a story about the ICE monster and its connection to the Imperialism Monster that has taken the lands and rivers of indigenous peoples in the Philippines forcing them to be separated from their ancestral lands and families.
After our circle time, we held a Children’s Parade to deliver a letter to the Whole Foods store we organized a play date protest around informing them of the collusion of Amazon/Whole Foods with Palantir to profile immigrants for deportation. Youth and students from SFSU helped with providing a community safety plan for our play date and chaperoning us on our parade.
At the end of our play date, we sang songs, colored posters, parading and chanting, in hopes that our solidarity, be heard in the neighborhood we were in, and perhaps across the border.
I often wonder how to explain this complicated situation to my young children. I know and understand that parents wonder that too. This action, this form, this insistence on centering our children is one way to do it. And I’m so proud to have been part of it.
It behooves us all to think about increasing the opportunities for our children, and families, to be involved in inspiring future generations to make this world better. This play date brought together our families in play and also in protest. It is the beginning of dreaming up and envisioning new ways to organize with families and children!
Photos by La Raine Gonzalez