UPPER MERION — MontcoMoms for Social Justice is calling its first gathering a demonstration rather than a protest.
“It’s not really anything formal, it’s just kind of grassroots. We wanted to give people the opportunity to stand up for the kind of world they want for their kids and also make it comfortable for people who might not normally feel comfortable here,” noted organizer Stephanie Vincent. “That’s why we use the word ‘demonstration.’ Rather than being against anything, we want to demonstrate what we’re for.”
The newly organized group is coming together on Route 202 in front of King of Prussia Mall on Saturday, Aug. 1 at 2 p.m. unified by the philosophy that peaceful visibility is the most effective way to get its message across.
“One of the things that’s important about demonstration is visibility,” said Vincent, a fitness instructor who lives in Upper Merion. “The mall is a good central location where there’s a lot of traffic and a lot of visibility. We’ll be on the sidewalk. We’re not marching. We’ll be social distancing. Upper Merion Police Department was contacted and they’ve been very supportive. We made sure that they were on board because we really want things to be safe and positive.”
At its heart, MontcoMoms is a grassroots effort, Vincent pointed out.
“There’s been a lot of local activism in the community, with protests in Eagleville and King of Prussia, and we’re just a grassroots group somewhat inspired by the Wall of Moms in Portland , but different. They’re about being protective of protesters and we’re more about just coming together and speaking out for the kind of world we want for our kids. We have mothers and fathers from all over the area and we’re open to the community.”
The response to the group on social media has been consistently positive, Vincent said.
“The feedback from other moms was that they want to come to the demonstration but they weren’t sure if they were comfortable. So I wanted to make this accessible to everybody so they’d feel comfortable coming out,” Vincent allowed.
As the mother of three children and four stepchildren, more than anything, her passion and energy for the cause comes from wanting to do something for her own kids, Vincent noted.
“I’m white but my kids are mixed race. My husband’s from Africa and I feel grateful that because of my family I have unfortunately seen things that I might not have been able to see, with my kids being treated differently,” she said. “There have been a lot of subtle things too, where people don’t realize they’re saying something or doing something that they’re treating someone different. My daughter, Jovina, is 14 and goes to the local high school,” she added, “and has received a lot of people in the school giving her problems and saying things about being mixed race, about being black or not being black enough. She’s 14 but you would never know it. She leads the protest and is extremely passionate. She really inspired me more than anything because I don’t want her to have to fight so much. I want her to live in a world where she can be who she is and not be treated differently because of it.”
Before the current unrest Vincent said she felt less optimistic about the potential for change.
“We didn’t have a lot of hope for any change or any empowerment to do anything. But since George Floyd’s death I think my family has felt empowered that there could really be a change in the world. So I feel empowered not just on the race issues but to change a lot of the systems in the country. My daughter struggles with her mental health. I personally felt complacent and I think a lot of people felt like that but now I think people feel like they have the power to change things if we do it together. I think that’s what you’re seeing in these grassroots movement,” Vincent said. “There’s a way to make our voices heard and demand the world we want and the kind of society we want for our kids.”
The message Vincent would like MontcoMoms demonstrations to convey is that it’s really about all the sons and daughters.
“We’re really demonstrating for them … all the mothers and fathers, even people who don’t have kids, who just want to say we’re going to fight for a better world for them.”