Taking Back Mother's Day By Leslie Reed

"Arise, then, women of this day! Arise, all women who have hearts!" exclaimed the poet and suffragist Julia Ward Howe in the original Mother's Day Proclamation, written in 1870. Howe was sick of dressing wounds and sons being killed in the civil war and was calling to women to create a day of counsel in the pursuit of discovering "the means whereby the great human family can live in peace."
 
What?! Mother's Day isn't about breakfast in bed or chocolate roses or even cute cards by small children? No, it's about getting out of bed and taking to the streets to demand that our governments leave a better world for our children and our children's children.
 
This year [and every year], mothers (and daughters and sisters and even men) across the United States are taking the holiday back to its roots. From Los Angeles to Olympia to New York City, parades complete with giant puppets, stilts and skits, are rolling down main street as a celebration of the role of mothers in caring for the worlds' children and an expression of their concerns. The events will focus on the issues raised by Howe, namely peace and justice, and aim to strengthen the bonds between American women and some of the most vulnerable women in the world, ranging from the millions of mothers and children who are dying of AIDS to those in conflict zones like Iraq and Palestine.
 
The Mother's Day parades are being organized by Mothers Acting Up, a group dedicated to mobilizing the gigantic strength of mothers to protect children wherever they live on earth with women's personal and political strength. The events are being preceded by the journey of 35 women to southern Africa to witness the AIDS crisis. The activities are spearheaded by Lynn McMullen, a mother, grandmother and passionate anti-poverty activist with the Global Democratic Citizen's Union. After witnessing the devastated lives of women and children impacted by the AIDS epidemic in South Africa, she decided that, as a mother, she could not stand idly by. She believed that American mothers, if they witnessed the epidemic themselves, would act. The Global AIDS Alliance and Jubilee USA joined her in sponsoring the trip.
 
More than half of AIDS victims in Africa are women. Every 14 seconds, that's 250 in the hour it takes you to get your child ready for school in the morning, a child in Africa loses a parent to AIDS, condemned to a life without the love and guidance of their parents, and to sure poverty. Over 11 million are now orphaned, for lack of the drugs Americans take for granted. Villages are populated by the very young and very old, no teachers, no health care workers, no farmers, whole cultures dying. African babies are also contracting HIV/AIDS at high rates, both through mother-to-child transmission and through unclean needles used for vaccinations and inappropriate medical care. Few of the 1.5 million children infected with HIV will live past age 3. While this silent genocide grows, Congress wrangles over whether to give money for condoms or abstinence-only programs and pays for AIDS prevention by stealing from funds from other child survival programs.
 
The trip and the parades are about American mothers reaching out to their sisters around the world to show that Americans do care and that the bonds of motherhood run deep. They are part of a growing international dialogue between mothers. The women's delegations abroad and subsequent Mother's Day events will be annual, each highlighting mothers and children in need of the world's attention.
 
For information about the Mother's Day Parades and to find out if there's one in your area, visit the Mothers Acting Up website at MothersActingUp.