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The Stroller Brigade gave us a voice

By Jeannine and Hana Sato

I’ve been a member of MomsRising North Carolina since 2008. Toxic reform is one of our top issues, but I have previously been focused on other areas.

After hearing Lindsay Dahl speak at a Toxic Free North Carolina meeting in Durham, last year, I was shocked, then stunned, then angry about the lack of protections from toxic chemicals.

So this year, when given the opportunity to attend the Safer Chemicals Stroller Brigade with my 6-year-old daughter Hana, I jumped at the chance. We’re a scrappy bunch.

The journey

We loaded up our minivans, called the local media and drove to DC with 5 moms and 8 kids. We shared hotel rooms so more of us could come and we wore our MomsRising superwoman T-shirts. We packed snacks, diapers, strollers and slings and lugged the kids through the maze which is Capitol Hill with armfuls of toxic reform facts.

We met with two NC legislators, three staffers and delivered personal messages to 18 more legislators from around the country. The kids had fun climbing trees in front of the Capitol and we met new friends in-between meetings with a feeling of camaraderie. One thing is for sure, moms always have your back.

Health problems affect us all, prevention matters

I have two children, one of whom has chronic asthma and allergies. He has become one of the millions of children with asthma that is sweeping the country. While there is no way to prove it, I am sure toxic chemical exposure plays a part. I could say the same about my mother, who survived breast cancer at age 27. Her sister, my aunt, was not as lucky.

She died last year.

Again, toxic chemical exposure is suspected, but never to blame, because the burden of proof is on the victim, not the manufacturer. This is unacceptable.

Taking vacation days to give voice to this issue

I am a working mom, so driving to Washington DC on a Monday morning and back late Tuesday night requires dedication. I sacrificed two vacation days and one school day for my daughter. It was a sacrifice and it was hard work, but it was worth it.

First, we were able to share our personal voice with legislators in a way that few Americans are able. By engaging with our lawmakers directly, on their turf, we establish that it is taxpayers and voters that drive decisions, not big business, not paid lobbyists, but real people.

It is our right as Americans to have a voice in the legislative process and the Stroller Brigade allowed us to do that.

Second, the chance to show my daughter that Americans do have a voice, was critical. I do not expect her to understand the nuances of the complicated Chemical Safety Improvement Act and its current failures, but I do expect her to stand up and say “I do not want poisonous chemicals in my food, toys and clothing.”

Here is what she wrote in her journal about the trip (used with her permission and true spelling).

“I went to Washintin D-C. We went to get toxic free. We got to see and take pichers of the captul. We staed in a buoettfl  hoetel that had a indore pool in it. Some things wer boring for me. Mabe you cud go to washintin D-C some day like me.”

Finally, the Stroller Brigade allowed my daughter to see me, a busy mom, willing to halt our lives for a few days to stand up for something important. I hope that after all the walking, meetings and press conferences, my daughter can say, “I’m proud that we stood up to protect families.”

Just like we teach her that bullying is not okay in school, bullying is not okay in Congress or in American life. The Stroller Brigade gave us a voice…and by darn, we used it!