Why I Chose Not To Attend the #WomensMarch (and How I Supported Instead)
This Saturday my heart swelled as I saw my sisters take to the streets. The events of the past year have shocked even the least politically inclined citizens into getting in formation as we have watched our democratic process morph into something from a particularly outrageous reality show. Demonstrations took over Miami, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and more locations including New Jersey's own Asbury Park. I am an avid supporter of the right of people to peacefully protest and a strong part of me wanted to be right there in the thick of things, but in the interest of self-care I sat this one out.
When Freddie Gray was senselessly slain at the hands of civil servants I was for once more than just furious. I had been hearing stories and seeing videos of similar killings for years and I felt like I had to DO something. I couldn't just keep talking about it. I couldn't just keep tweeting about it. I had to act. So I headed to Penn Station, hopped on the path train and joined my fellow protesters in Union Square. What I saw that night will forever stay with me.
In just a few short hours I witnessed the following-police officers tossing garbage bags they plucked off of the street at us in an effort to force us off of the sidewalk and make us obstruct traffic so we could be arrested for doing so, a middle-aged white man screaming at me that I should “shut up and vote for something” when I asked someone standing next to him a question, a young girl who was guilty of merely stepping into the street during a red light being punched in the face by someone charged with protecting and serving her, police officers laughing at protesters whose emotions had brought them to tears. I wasn't hit with hoses or bitten by dogs like those who spent their lives fighting for my rights but my heart hurt all the same.
As an intersectional feminist who spent her childhood up in Newark and Irvington there's never been any love lost between myself and the police. It has been my unfortunate experience that they can make bad situations worse. It seems the effects of growing up black and poor are permanent and despite two wonderful encounters I have had with Union County police officers as an adult I still feel fear and dread when I see a cop car in my rear view window.
Still I didn't think they could be so intentionally antagonistic. I thought they would behave if they knew the world was watching. I was wrong.
When I was invited to attend the New York march by a friend all I could see was the beautiful girl with the blue hair and the lovely smile being pummeled by police. So I chickened out and stayed close to home where it was safe(r).
That's what I didn't do this weekend. Here's what I did. I researched black-owned restaurants on Genese Jamilah’s "I Don't Do Clubs" and paid a visit to Zora's Cafe in Hell’s Kitchen with two of my girlfriends. I attended the Very Smart Brothers happy hour in an effort to support a brand I believe in. I took a yoga class at a brand new woman-owned small business in my neighborhood and snapped a few pictures so I could spread the word. I took care of myself. I thanked others for their support.
It might not have been as effective as holding up a sign but I tried my best to make my mark. I hope you're trying too.
Photo Credit: Angela Peoples via her Facebook Page