When protests erupted across the country after the killing of George Floyd, Moraya Seeger DeGeare felt compelled to join. As the granddaughter of singer-songwriter and activist Pete Seeger, taking action to fight for social justice was in her blood. “I grew up going to rallies,” she says. “Activism is really normal for me.”
This time, though, she couldn’t participate. With a newborn at home and COVID-19 still spreading, Moraya was unwilling to take the risk. But she had another idea for how to support the movement.
A socially distanced protest
“If you ever visited the Hudson Valley in the late 1990s or early 2000’s,” she wrote on her family therapy practice’s website, “you might remember seeing [my grandfather], by himself, standing on the corner every single week with his ‘PEACE’ protest signs.”
Taking inspiration from her grandfather’s activism, as well as from his song “To My Old Brown Earth,” Moraya created To My Old Racist Earth, a project dedicated to using art to protest (from a safe distance). In lieu of in-person demonstrations, Moraya is encouraging others to draw murals in chalk on driveways and sidewalks, or to create signs for doors and windows, all highlighting messages of solidarity, protest, and hope for the future. Not only is it a great way for kids to get involved, but it’s also a powerful option for those of us who cannot leave their homes and take part in the on-the-ground fight for racial justice.
And so, beginning on July 3rd, 2020, Moraya is hoping to see everyone amplify their voices by sharing photos of their chalk art and signs on social media with the hashtag #ToMyOldRacistEarth. She will then compile the images on the project’s Instagram account to spread the message—as well as the beauty—of the artwork.
Using art to spark conversation
When it comes to what the actual message is on the chalk art and signs, Moraya thinks that’s up to you. “What’s the thing you care about?” she says. “Black lives matter, yes, but that also means clean drinking water. It also means we need better education. It also means trans lives matter. All of these things encompass our world [and are connected], so what’s the piece that you’re talking to your kids about? Let’s create some art around that.”
Beyond the beautification and the sense of community the art inspires, Moraya’s goal is for the To My Old Racist Earth project to facilitate much-needed and age-appropriate family discussions on important topics such as racism, sexism, the environment, and more. “I was asked by so many couples [in my practice], ‘How do I talk to my kids about race?’ And I started to think, ‘I want to do something here.' This is a way for you to talk about things that you care about, but also things that could be scary, in a safe environment. And you’re making it personal, you’re making it political, and it’s a way to talk about it as a family.”
Want to join the To My Old Racist Earth project? Starting on July 3rd, 2020, grab some chalk, crayons, paint, or whatever you’ve got handy, and get creative with signs and murals for solidarity and change.