Por Los Ninos

Why do some of us stick with it, continue to organize and take action for a better world? The longer I’ve lived, the more I’ve come to believe that for many of us, children are, at root, the primary reason.

Long-time peace and justice activist Daniel Berrigan concluded one of his most well-known poems, “Some,” with these words:

Why do you stand?” they were asked, and
“Why do you walk?”

“Because of the children,” they said, and
“Because of the heart, and
“Because of the bread,”

“Because the cause is
the heart’s beat, and
the children born, and
the risen bread.”

I remember how, about 15 years ago, the thought of my two nieces, at the time ages 1 and 4, Abby and Ellie, was what allowed me to overcome my fear of heights and to scale a ladder 25 feet up from the ground and sit on a narrow ledge for four hours as part of a 2006 climate protest. The last words of the poem I wrote after that action were: ”Abby and Ellie, children everywhere, future generations, need us now.”

And I remember reading, somewhere some time ago, about an African American young person asking a grandparent who had been active in the deep South fighting brutal Jim Crow segregation how they were able to take the risks which came with doing so. The grandparent’s answer: I kept thinking of you and the world you would be living in.

Last week, flying on a plane to California to baby-sit my grandson Rio for my son and daughter in law, independent filmmakers who needed me to do so while they did interviews for a future film, I wrote this poem:

Soon, very soon,
A couple of hours more,
At the airport,
Baggage claim,
As you and your parents
And me,
Your grandpa,
In person,
Not for some minutes
As important as that is,
But touching,
And holding,
And loving face to face.

Days together
Before returning home
To keep at the work–
Even more important to me now–
Of helping,
Working with others,
Day after day,
Hour by hour,
As much as my body allows
For a New World
For you and all children.

I will do all I can, Rio,
I promise you.

And I love you so much.

There’s a song that has been around in the climate justice movement for many years that I’ve often sung and always liked. Sometimes while singing it with others as part of street actions I’ve choked up while doing so:

People gonna rise like the waters,
Gonna calm this crisis down.
I hear the voice of my great granddaughter saying
Keep it in the ground.

How can our people’s movement for justice, peace, democracy and a stable climate not lose our way as we work for those societal objectives? Putting children, grandchildren, the seventh generation at the center as we figure it all out is without a doubt an essential component.

Ted Glick is an organizer with Beyond Extreme Energy, President of 350NJ-Rockland and author of the recently published books, Burglar for Peace and 21st Century Revolution. More info can be found at https://tedglick.com, and he can be followed on Twitter at https://twitter.com/jtglick.