Beth Fairservis: ‘Joyful Warriors’ on a mission to save the planet

  • Beth Fairservis in 2016. gazette file photo

Published: 4/1/2019 3:03:25 PM

This March 15, my 13-year-old son and I packed up our big Sun puppet, Love and Justice hands, and a banner that reads “Declare Climate Emergency Now” and with painful irony, drove our fossil fuel van to Boston with six students from Northampton High School.

We went to join the Sunrise Youth Strike, which happened all over the world on that day. ​ These young students and my son are without a doubt what I would call “Joyful Warriors.” Arriving at City Hall in Cambridge in the bowels of a parking garage, I handed them my aging activist art, and they immediately took up the challenge of being big and unusual in a world where “normal” is constantly being emphasized.

Yet what is normal about being a child having to protest to save their future? With giggles we carefully maneuvered the giant face of the Sun puppet on a tall pole, into the elevator.

“It’s like a dream,” I said. And I think we all wished that climate change was just a dream. Yet smiling and laughing, we rose to street level and popped out onto the sidewalk with our eye-catching objects. Crossing the history-filled Boston Common, the Declaration of Independence monument, the docents in costume giving history tours, leaning against the wind, we climbed the steps of City Hall and joined the throngs of children and teens, speaking truth to power.

My impromptu ensemble followed me into the crowd to the top of the stairs against the iron fence, which separates the people from the halls of power. We turned and faced a crowd of beautiful, young, earnest and worried faces.

Raising the Sun, hands and banner high, we took our place in this profound moment of history. Our tableau was strong and beautiful, bringing the power of the puppet to the protest. We were declaring with our art and our hearts that something big is happening here — bigger than life — and that nothing less than magic can turn this catastrophe around.

Young voices boomed out through megaphones, some cracking with the strain of all that they had to say. But the crowd loved them, listened, and chanted. They held their handmade posters high and you could feel the rising power, a collective power where difference no longer mattered.

A new declaration emerged, not whitewashed by selective justice, but by a clarity of purpose that comes only when you face mortality head on. These children, few among the billions of people on earth, are rising to address the collective mortality of life on earth with all the light of awakening that can be mustered. Their courage is astounding, but we have left them no choice.

This may in fact be the first time in human history when children are having to shake humanity to its senses. They are doing the work of the “Joyful Warrior” — becoming aware, listening to their intuition about what is right, and taking creative action.

Now we adults need to do the same thing. May it be that the children and teens can go back to the dreams of their future, which are as long and as big as life itself. Here are some things you can do: Tell the Environmental Protection Agency to stop denying climate change; volunteer with; and learn everything you can about the Green New Deal.

Beth Fairservis lives in Williamsburg.

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