Why Two Women Brought Their Students to a Protest For Democracy

September 15, 2016

Two Women, One Driving Belief

Pilar McCloud and Janorisè Robertson share a common belief and it drives their life work:

We need to teach our kids how to carry forward the fight that was started by their parents and grandparents, or the movement will stagnate. It must be constantly refreshed, and we must teach that.

We met Pilar McCloud and Janorisè Robertson in Washington, DC, during Democracy Awakening, a three-day weekend of marching, teaching and protesting for our democracy. Both educators, Pilar and Janorisè had brought their students with them from Providence, RI, and Chicago, IL, respectively, to see our nation’s capital. To see the majestic buildings that are meant to symbolize the glory of our democracy—and then also, and more importantly, to witness the people on the streets fighting to ensure that our democracy lives up to its promise. 

Watch Pilar and Janorisè With Their Students:


The Next Generation Is Where It’s At

Pilar’s and Janorisè’s kids moved in and around the monuments and marches, taking in the gravity of the fight—for civil rights, for voting rights, for elections free of unregulated dark money—that their parents and grandparents started. And now adding their own voices to the fight, marching and shouting “Show me what democracy looks like!”

What they know is this: Each new generation must take up the cause, make the struggle their own and, with refreshed hope and energy, take it even farther. While the fight never really ends, the goal is always in sight. As Martin Luther King, Jr., said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”

Students at capitol building.

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Sign the Petition to Reauthorize the VRA & Protect Everyone's Right to Vote!

“We End Up Suffering the Most”

Pilar is the chairwoman of the Providence, RI, NAACP Youth Council and she couldn’t contain her passion when it came to talking about voting rights. “In communities of color, it is almost sometimes impossible to vote. You go to your regular polling location, only to find out that your location has been moved…So, what happens? People get discouraged and…they don’t vote.” And if they don’t vote, then their voices aren’t heard.

She decried a system where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, where money flooding into politics ends up helping affluent schools rather than low-income schools.

In low-income communities, we end up suffering the most.

She gestured to her students and said, “And what ends up happening? The people standing behind me are the ones that end up with the short end of the stick.”

“They’re People Too”

Like Pilar, Janorisè works in a low-income community. Most of the 33 eighth graders she brought with her from their school in the Chicago area had never even been outside the state of Illinois!

She told us that 100 percent of her students receive free breakfast and lunch at their school. The huge amounts of money flowing into politics only serves, to her mind, to make the gap even wider between schools like hers and schools that have absolutely everything they need.

Democracy Awakening march

Speaking of her students, she said, “They’re people too. They want just as many opportunities as other people.” And when ultra-wealthy elites fund our elections, then the concerns of regular people are ignored—and those opportunities start drying up.

Take Action Now!
Sign the Petition to Reauthorize the VRA & Protect Everyone's Right to Vote!

Fight for Your Rights, Honey!

Like us, Pilar and Janorisè want a country that respects all people.

That provides chances for everyone to succeed.

That ensures that our right to vote can never be taken away.

That guarantees all our voices will be heard.

Their students—shyly soaking in all of DC’s sights, and watching their teachers with admiration—deserve nothing less. In fact, if our democracy fails anyone, then it fails all of us. Janorisè said:

We all deserve to have a voice. We’re all human. We’re all people. That’s our privilege. That’s our honor. That’s our right.

Pilar told us that she often brings her kids to DC to teach them exactly how the system works—and doesn’t work. “Because if you don’t fight for your rights, honey, you surely will lose them.”

You Can Join The Fight, Too!

Moved by the work that Pilar and Janorisè dedicate their lives to? We were. Add your name to the petition to ensure voting rights for all!