The beauty of democracy is a marvelous thing to witness. People invoking their right to peaceful assemblage to speak out, either for or against, on a myriad of polemical issues from the Iraq War, gay rights, election turnouts, police brutality, to many more.
It’s always caught my attention, but I never felt the drive to go, paint my face, and start screaming and chanting. While I commend the men and women that march for those who do not always get a voice, let alone get heard, I’ve always pursued other mediums in my fight for justice and to be proactive in the making of history. I have trouble believing that only one avenue of protestment is what brings about change.
However, this year, after repeated FaceBook alerts and adverts for the 2017 Atlanta March for Social Justice & Women, and learning of all the different organizations (there are 58 listed on the website) that partnered with them I thought, “This is more of a humanitarian rally. Not a protest. People just want to make sure they are heard, known, and represented. I have no argument against that. Sure, let’s do some marching.”
My cousin, whose first rodeo this was not, and I arrived at the end of the rally speech by Congressman John Lewis. As Mr Lewis made his way through the crowd, the chant of “District 5 Pride!” intensified.
I see how mob mentality is infectious. The brass band played loudly “This Land is Your Land” and Baton Bob did what he does best by raising troops and energy. Something about it overtakes you and before you know it you are screaming and aren’t sure at what. But damn it feels good!
I wanted my first experience to be one of observation. I had no identifying clothing that attached me to a particular group, no sign, no warrior paint. I was there to observe and be morally supportive .
However questions listed themselves as I waited in the chockablock intersection of Baker Street and Centennial Olympic Park Drive. What are the chances that a mob will overtake this group and people’s fears of anarchy will come true? Will my beloved Capital be turned into a scene of chaos? Will someone be hurt for handing a police officer a flower in gesture of peace?
No. Absolutely none of that happened. So anti-climactic.
And that is the best thing! There were over 60,000 people in attendance, according to the AJC, all marching for various causes from women’s rights, interfaith initiatives to bridge gaps in understanding between different religions, black rights, gay rights, Planned Parenthood supporters, and many just had signs saying that love will overcome.
That was the biggest thing that stuck out. All of this was out of pure love. Love for democracy, love for their neighbor. Sure, there were signs criticizing our new president, but I walked alongside a group of trans men, and sang “Lean On Me” with a group of women in Black Lives Matter shirts, I looked over and watched a mother explain to her daughter the importance of marching and about the number of women who made a difference before them. I felt like Hugh Grant in the opening of Love Actually, realizing love truly is all around. Even the police and armed military members smiled and waved to us, cheering us on.
No one was in competition to get more grants, pass/repeal more laws, or to prove their cause was more worthy than another. More than anything everyone was there to support one another during this time of change. To take advantage of our rights, to use this as a teaching experience for our children, to simply let people know unapologetically what our struggles are in hopes that we can all come together and learn from one another.
I still believe that if you really want to make a change then you need to tap into your strengths and play upon them. Don’t just march in one march or vote in one election. Get involved on a local and daily level and find a cause that you can truly get behind. Educate yourself about policies, government, and different groups of people. It is through involvement and persistence that we make change we want to see.