This story is an excerpt from Michelle Warren’s new book Join the Resistance (IVP, 2022).
When my oldest child was in first grade, I received a call from a school parent asking for some support. This was not unusual, as the school had recently been built on community-driven support and was now in its second year. For several years’ prior, community leaders had worked with the school board, with mill-levy bonds for funding, and with thousands of community participants to open the very first dual-language public Montessori school in the country.
It was exciting to join in support of this revolutionary new school that intentionally prioritized the value of equity and global citizenship. Half of the student body were native Spanish speakers, half native English—all learning together in two languages. Working across racial and cultural lines on behalf of this outstanding prototype was electric. It seemed like everyone associated with the school was a nonprofit leader, artist, teacher, or activist.
The second year the school was operating, a ballot amendment for the State of Colorado was to be brought to a vote. If it passed, English would be the only language students who did not speak English would be able to be taught. Our hard-fought, dual-language school model would tank. Cries from our community rose immediately and the need to organize, protest, call, resist was put into full swing.
When a parent called me to help get the news out, the request was simple—would you please make sure each parent in my child’s class got a flier when they picked their student up? Of course! It was the least I could do. I put a copy of each flied in every student’s box. Easy. Job done.
Later that afternoon I got a call from the principal—you can’t put political material in school boxes. Oh, well. I apologized and picked up my fliers at the school office. I began again, this time doing whatever I could to physically get the flier in each parent’s hand.
No one was asking me to do anything else. I chose to join the march that weekend, put signs on my car, talk to everyone I knew about the horrible amendment, but in the actual organizing work, I was only asked to hand out fliers. That was good. I was new to activism and protest work—I hadn’t even realized the extent of what was happening.
Later that month, when I piled my young kids into the family car and joined the protest march, I had never yet been a part of a protest march; I had never been on the front page of a newspaper; I had never chanted—this was my walking in. I did what I was asked. I brought my voice and my body, and alongside my neighborhood I shouted, “No on treinta y uno. No on thirty-one.” I was simply there to serve, to follow, to join.
Michelle Ferrigno Warren is the president and CEO of Virago Strategies, a consulting group that provides strategic direction and project management for civic engagement campaigns alongside communities affected by racial and economic injustice. She helped found Open Door Ministries in downtown Denver to address poverty, addiction, and homelessness. She is the author of The Power of Proximity and Join the Resistance, available now.