I am tired. Good heavens, I'm tired. Exhausted from work, exhausted from running, exhausted from all the anxiety that keeps me awake half the night - just exhausted. But I had to go to this rally. I had to go. It's important. It was and is so important. It was time for me to stop pontificating, for me to stop spurring everyone else to action while I napped in the wings. It was time for me to show up or shut up.
I've changed a lot in the past decade. I've changed so much in just the past eight years, from not voting for Obama in 2008 (gasp!) to being crazy insane liberal compared to eight years ago. But even so it's taken me a long time to be ready to take to the streets. I always thought street protests were an empty gesture and wouldn't elicit as much change as working the system, talking to people, and passing legislature.
But now I see that when the system is so horribly rigged against you then you must take to the streets. When districts gerrymander viciously and with "surgical precision" to tip the balance of power out of the hands of the populace then you must take to the streets. When your voice is devalued, and is even silenced or purged, then you must take to the streets. This is not a matter of "difference in political opinion" - this is a matter of basic human rights. That I have a right to exist, that my neighbor has a right to exist, that we have autonomy over our bodies and that "no means 'no'" and that we all have equal opportunity and equal voices and a chance to participate in this democracy and society. This isn't about who has the best policy to stimulate the economy. This is about fundamental rights. And sometimes we have to take to the streets and proclaim when something is not right.
This isn't just about making our voices heard. We've been shouting and marching for hundreds of years - women, POC, immigrants, differently abled, nonconforming, anyone who is outside of the traditional structure of power or is sympathetic to those who are. We have repeated ourselves over and over again - the same wishes, different slogans. We would not be so angry with the conversation if it weren't so one-sided. We would not be fuming if at least someone listened - if at least we felt like there was progress.
And of course I say "we" but yet I am trespassing on others' voices, inappropriately appropriating their struggles. These are people who have been out there shouting for me to listen long before I even thought to be frustrated and long before I thought to question the constructs of my social existence. I do them an injustice to say "we" but for once, this Saturday, we were marching together. We made it safe for all of us to be heard. There were no police in riot gear. There were friendly faces willing to close the streets for us, willing to let the loudspeakers blare in the city square, willing to let us march. This was privilege. There is power in diversity of crowds and voices, a protection we can offer each other, and we proved that. Now that we know our power, we know our responsibility - not to appropriate, but to join what is already there. To elevate. To escalate.
Under a grey, foggy sky that obscured the tops of high-rises - PNC Plaza, Wells Fargo, Red Hat - the people of North Carolina marched in Raleigh. They filled the streets and they filled Moore Square - a crowd of color and signs around a stage piled with powerful speakers - hefty amplifiers stacked eight feet tall that projected the strong voices of NAACP leaders, community activists, and talented musicians who roused the crowd with calls to do work and promises of strength, solidarity, and equality.
Here my cynicism of rallies kicked in though: for many in the crowd this was nothing more than a feel-good protest, a commiseration, a place to hold a sign and then go home. They stole away in trickles as the hours dragged on, talking about how bummed they were and what do you think of this place for a quick bite to eat and a beer?
(Or was I thinking of myself instead of them when I asked if these people would show up to the next protest?)
Around the square booths like the People's Alliance and Sierra Club and Lillian's List had clipboards set out to collect names and email addresses, working hard to turn anger into activism.
Turquoise was the designated color of the rally and men and women wore bright turquoise sashes, turquoise jackets, turquoise vests, and a rainbow assortment of other clothes and accessories - hot pink "pussy" hats, yellow scarves, blue t-shirts, and the occasional rainbow flag draped over shoulders, cape-like, as though they were superheroes.
There were photographers who looked a bit underwhelmed by the scene, kids with posters, dogs draped in doggy coats and ribbon, and so many selfies and iPhone panoramas and Facebook live feeds. There were Nasty Women and Bad Hombres and babies in "future feminist" gear, and lots of opinions. Closest to the stage the audience at times nodded in agreement or clapped their hands, or shouted out responses, charging the air with their emotions. On the fringes others watched, or stood guard with signs held over head, or observed others in the crowd.
What this needed was more clipboards, more calls to action, more clear objectives for the crowd - maybe a bake sale? (No, I'm kidding). But in all earnestness, the most dedicated core will always show up to act, but how do we convert this discontent into a lasting movement? How do we consolidate the unfulfilled wishes of Occupy, Million Women March (the one and only 1997 original), Black Lives Matter, Intersectional Feminism, and all the other movements - special interest, intersectional, unaffiliated - and join up and lift up one another? How do we make sure this action doesn't die? Because this is important. This is so important.
Get involved. I know I will.
Feb 11 - Moral March on Monday: https://hkonj.com/moral-march-on-raleigh/
Feb 23 - Structural Racism and the effects it has on Women of color http://www.actionnc.org/structural_racism_and_the_effects_it_has_on_women_of_color
Action NC: http://www.actionnc.org/
Durham People's Alliance: http://www.durhampa.org/
Women's March on Raleigh: https://womensmarchonraleigh.org/blog/
And a list of organizations to check out: https://womensmarchonraleigh.org/mission-1-1
Women's March 10 Actions 100 Days: https://www.womensmarch.com/100
Swing Left: https://swingleft.org/
Black Lives Matter: http://blacklivesmatter.com/
Support your news sources. Subscribe to national and local newspapers.
Call your elected officials. Tell them about your concerns.
Nervous about calling them? Check this out: http://echothroughthefog.cordeliadillon.com/post/153393286626/how-to-call-your-reps-when-you-have-social-anxiety
Contact your representative in Congress: http://www.whoismyrepresentative.com/
Contact your local officials: https://www.usa.gov/elected-officials
Misadventures article: http://misadventuresmag.com/on-marching/
Fellow (wonderful!) blogger: https://nataliecziemba.wordpress.com/2017/01/23/if-not-me-who/
No really, read this:
How to survive in intersectional feminist spaces 101: https://crossknit.wordpress.com/2017/01/23/so-you-wanna-be-an-intersectional-feminist/
What did I miss? What did I get wrong? Did you notice something about the march that I missed, or am I being blind to some part of my social construct? Let me know.