I have to admit, despite my love for public displays of resistance, the coldness of a dark Monday evening almost kept me home. Turns out that showing up was the hardest part! As soon as we joined ranks and started connecting with everyone there my energy level multiplied. We walked a continuous loop in front of Senator Thom Tillis’s office with people from all corners of our community, united in common purpose. This time, we specifically gathered to oppose the nomination of Jeff Sessions for Attorney General due to his dismal record defending civil and human rights. Appropriately, many people also marched with their children to oppose Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education. Although we have been calling, tweeting, and sharing all the reasons to oppose these two nominations, it still did not feel like enough. So, to the streets we go.
There’s an African proverb that says, “When you pray, move your feet”. Truthfully, the act of walking in a continuous loop and raising a collective voice is meditative. It is therapeutic to get off line and get on the ground. Putting one foot in front of the other seems to shed some feelings of helpless, stress, and anger. To publicly declare patriotic dissent in a peaceful protest, without fear of retribution, is really an American privilege. Furthermore, to feel connected to strangers through chanting and song is testament to the power of music to unite us. The song that was offered today has been my mental soundtrack since I walked away. “Ella’s song” written by Dr. Bernice Johnson Reago: “the song is an anthem, a meditation on the ultimate lesson of the freedom fight, passed down generationally by Ms. Ella Baker herself, that is meant to be spoken boldly out loud or under one’s breath as the situation demands to empower both purpose and resolve”. A meditation and celebration of protest. If you crave an inspiring story of resistance music, I will recommend the South African documentary Amandla: A Revolution in Four Part Harmony.
I recently had a similar experience of using song under my breath to empower myself. When we arrived in DC for the Women’s March, we happen to spill out of Union Station directly into the post-inauguration crowd. It was unsettling to say the least. We walked many blocks before we stumbled out of the Trump-swarm. In order to stay calm and focused while surrounded with snickering Trump fans, I sang “Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Round” under my breath. I learned the song at “Music for the March”, our kick-off event to empower people going to the marches. Turns out, it served that exact purpose for me!
Quickly, we have all realized this fighting back is exhausting and hitting the streets often seems like too much at the end of a long Monday. Just remember, sometimes all you need is a short walk with some good friends and a little music to keep you going.
Photo credit: Abby Nardo