[Note: This is a Guest Post contributed by Rachel Usdan, the DC Chapter Leader of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. And I did not make her write that first line. 🙂 ]
I am a big fan of the KidFriendly DC blog, reading it regularly since my children were born to plan out our weekly adventures in the DC area. I have always tried to teach my children about current events in a kid-friendly way, too, and to include them in civic-minded activities like taking them in the voting booth with me to help press the buttons and get their “I voted” sticker.
Two years ago, when I learned that my then 3-year-old was enduring active shooter drills in his pre-K classroom, I realized that he already knew more about gun violence than I had hoped. So, I have also involved my children in gun violence prevention activism since I started volunteering for Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. It’s actually not surprising that a movement started by moms (but open to dads, grandmas, and everyone else, too!) is in fact very kid-friendly.
Are you interested in getting involved in Moms Demand Action with your children? Here are a few activities that parents and kids of all ages can have fun doing together:
Wear Orange Picnic
Wear Orange is National Gun Violence Awareness weekend. The community building event takes place in June every year. Last month DC Moms Demand Action came together for a family-friendly picnic in Anacostia Park with a survivor speaker, a voter registration table, food, face painting, kites, giant Jenga, and Frisbees.
Tabling at Community Events
We do tabling for a variety of reasons. It’s a great way to talk to people in the community about gun violence prevention, educate them on the Be Smart program, describe ways that they can get involved with Moms Demand Action, and even directly help them register to vote. We had a table at the Garfield Community Day block party in Ward 8 last week, where we talked to parents, grandparents, and community leaders about the gun violence affecting their lives. I brought my 6-year-old with me, convincing him that he could be my helper and that there might be a popsicle in it for him at the end. Not only was he excellent at applying temporary tattoos to other kids’ arms, he also had a total blast playing Frisbee with a police officer, getting soaked in the huge stream of water from a fire hose, and gobbling up a quickly melting popsicle.
Moms Demand Action is going to do tabling at the H Street Festival on September 15. We are also planning to do tabling several other times this fall specifically to register voters. You can Like or Follow the Moms Demand Action – DC Facebook Page and Text READY to 64433 to stay posted on upcoming events.
Canvassing for Gun Sense Political Candidates
We started young with our children and took them on daytrips to nearby Virginia to canvass when they were infants. With preschoolers, we made sure to pack lots of snacks and mapped out a playground pitstop to get some of their (and our) wiggles out in between door knocking. I’ll never forget when my then 5-year-old son decided to impersonate Hillary Clinton while he knocked on doors (“Knock, knock, this is Hillary Clinton at your door!”). With older children, tweens, and teens, the motivation might not be a playground or a snack, but they would be old enough to make a fun game out of seeing which parent/child team can get through the door-knocking list first.
The DC chapter of Moms Demand Action will be joining up with the chapter in neighboring Virginia to help with their canvassing events throughout the fall to help elect gun sense candidates — because a safer VA is a safer DC. We may also work with chapters in nearby Maryland and Pennsylvania depending on candidate needs and volunteer capacity.
Activities that parents can do with teens:
DC Chapter Meetings
We typically hold meetings once a month. Our next one is taking place Sunday, July 15, 4-6pm, at We Act Radio (1918 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. SE). We will hear from Ron Moten, an Urban Violence Prevention Specialist and DC Community Organizer. RSVP and read more about it here!
Gun Sense Action Network
Are you and your teens looking for the most effective way for DC residents to influence gun sense legislation? Join the Gun Sense Action Network, a phone calling program that you can do from the convenience of your home. Our chapter is also planning to hold several phonebanking parties in the upcoming months to help elect gun sense candidates in the midterm elections. Again, you can Like/Follow the Moms Demand Action – DC Facebook Page and text READY to 64433 to stay up to date as we finalize these events.
Attending Hearings on the Hill
We are uniquely positioned here in the nation’s capital such that when the House or the Senate holds a hearing on a piece of gun safety legislation, the DC, VA, and MD chapters of Moms Demand Action throw on our red shirts and head to the Hill to let our lawmakers know we are following how they vote on these lifesaving laws. I think older kids would be fine attending hearings. They can be long and boring, but a child could bring coloring or another quiet activity. I’ve seen young children as well, but most are usually being entertained by an iPad with earphones (just FYI).
Students Demand Action
If you have a teen aged 14+ who is motivated to be involved on their own and with their friends, invite them to join the DC chapter of Students Demand Action! Many tweens and teens have begun to take this movement to the next level by forming chapters of Students Demand Action in cities and states across the US. Here in DC, high school students from across the city had their very first DC Students Demand Action meeting in June. They have jumped right in and have already created a Facebook Page and an Instagram account. They will be involved when the March for Our Lives Road to Change Bus Tour stops in DC on August 5, and are starting to plan other actions specifically for local students. Students can join by texting STUDENTS to 64433.
You can also help some of their efforts by donating to a GoFundMe campaign created by Lauryn Renford, an amazing DC Students Demand Action leader. She is raising money for a mural to memorialize DC youth who have been killed by gun violence, including her boyfriend, Zaire Kelly. She has already commissioned artists, found a wall, and received permission from the city. All she needs is enough money.
You can also help support the efforts of the Moms Demand Action DC Chapter, by making a contribution. Funds help support our work on the Hill and in the local community. We are a 501(c)3 organization.
To learn more about the gun violence epidemic in America visit Everytown for Gun Safety.
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Rachel Usdan is the DC Chapter Leader for Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. She lives in DC with her children and husband. When she isn’t being an engineer or a volunteer, she likes to do arts & crafts projects and eat dark chocolate.