Garrett and Sadie Stewart, with Julia Sirois and Elijah Stewart, two of their six children. They have told their kids not to bring bags into stores, and warn them to keep their hands visible in any police encounter. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Garrett Stewart, 54, and his wife, Sadie, are a mixed-race Portland couple raising a blended family. He’s a ship fitter at Bath Iron Works and she is a paralegal. They have six children – five from their previous marriages, ranging in age from 18 to 30, and one together, a 12-year-old son.

We have had to explain to our boys not to bring bags into stores, only touch what you intend to buy. Be sure to use your manners and make eye contact with store workers.

If there is ever contact with the police, remain calm. Even if you have something on your person or know you have done something wrong, do not run and do not make any sudden moves. Keep your hands visible and listen to commands. We will take care of whatever the problem is later. We want you to live to fight another day.

The mask/COVID situation takes it to a whole new level of risk, so at this time, our 12-year-old only goes to the corner store where they know him unless accompanied by an adult.

Our son was first exposed to racism when watching the news and hearing Gov. LePage call brown people “the enemy.” Our son was only 9.

This was upsetting and compelled me to attend a town hall where Gov. LePage was speaking, where I confronted him. Ever since I have been involved in fighting against racism and have even started forming a local chapter of the A. Philip Randolph Institute (a labor organization). I am on the Permanent Commission for the status on Racial, Indigenous and Tribal Populations. I include my kids on the conversations and am learning a lot myself as well.

Yes, definitely, (we talk to them about police). One of my biggest fears is for them to be misunderstood by law enforcement or to be at the wrong place at the wrong time.

We haven’t had to bring this up ourselves (referring to George Floyd and the protests). They are aware through social media and TV. My daughter, who is white, has been attending the protests.

– Staff Writer Bob Keyes

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