Monday, May 6, 2013
May Day protest proves a change needs to come
“In 1963, Sam Cooke was in Durham, North performing at a concert after participating in a sit-in,” I began my speech last week at the Triangle May Day protest.
“He left the concert and ran to the tour bus. There, he penned the words to the song A Change Gonna Come. I’m still waiting for change.”
My speech followed an unforgettable ride to Raleigh, North Carolina with two members of The Raging Grannies. The two grandmas in the car with me told stories of being arrested for protesting wars. The image of grannies wearing handcuffs was enough to encourage me to do more for those fighting to be heard.
Our walk up the stairs leading to the Halifax Mall was met with the march of a group of men leaving a legislative building. They passed us like enraged warriors headed to a new battle.
“Good day,” I spoke as they passed in a line, two by two.
They kept marching devoid of smile or answer. The badges dangling from their jacket pockets served to identify their position. These were the dudes making those important decisions. They refused to speak. Their disdain for me and the two grannies left me wondering more about the integrity of those who made laws like their conclusions failed to impact real people.
I waited for the crowd of protestors to arrive. They were nearby brewed in a moment of civil disobedience. Most of them were college student’s intent on using the Constitutional right to protest cutbacks and other laws certain to amend their plans after receiving a college degree. Many wondered if the changes would impact their ability to return to school.
The word that five students had been arrested came back to the group at the Halifax Mall. My speech had ended. Only a few were gathered to hear my words that conjured memories of a song about pending change.
“I’m still waiting for change.” I barked in between pauses to give time for the Spanish translation.
“They make laws to take us back,” pause. “But they can’t define who we are,” pause. “We are not what they say we are. We are more than that,” another pause in between words to describe why we gathered that day.
“We are a community redefined by our common bond. We are more than groups defined by race, gender, economic struggle and sexual orientation. We are that change. That change has come. Those over there can’t take that away. We are here to say Hell no to their efforts to take that common bond away.”
The blood of those slaughtered to escort change fermented in my blood like momentum that refused to go back. The image of beaten youth and tired grandparents marching for truth attacked my spirit like a madman begging to be set free. Yes, I’m tired of this – too tired to turn back now.
I titled my head toward the clouds that introduced the fear of rain.
“Where is the sun God? Show me the sun. If not, bring forth the rainbow,” I whispered in hope of divine intervention.
The gathering of the youth led by drummers descended on the mall. Their youthful faces blended with determination.
“They are too young to know the struggles we faced,” I whispered. “We are too old to know the struggles they face.”
One last closing of my eyes before the storm of tears came rolling down my face.
“Why would the Governor sign a measure that cuts benefits for jobless workers by a third,” I whispered. “Why God? Why?”
“Why would the Governor sign a bill blocking Medicaid expansion? Why would be pass legislation that will leave 500,000 people with no coverage? Why God? Why?”
“Why would the North Carolina House pass a voter ID bill that will limit senior citizens and poor people from accessing the polls? Why God? Why?
My personal prayer intensified as the faces of youth took me back to the day a gang of white boys kicked me, spit on me, called me a Nigger and walked away.
“This feels like George Wallace all over again,” I whispered softer than before. “Is this Alabama all over again? Has the rage consumed those unwilling to feel the pain?”
I waited for the sun to come. Then I waited for the rain. Then I waited for the rainbow. Nothing. No sun. No rain. No rainbow.
Like bones in the valley, we waited for change. The police remained nearby to remind us of the venom camouflaged in politics. Like snakes skulking through the weeds, they patiently wait for openings to bite.
“You have a good evening. Thanks for what you do,” I said to a group of police as I left with the two grannies.
“Same to you,” one responded as the others nodded their heads.
I’m still waiting for that change. A change gotta come. It’s gotta come soon.