At 12:58pm, more than 400,000 people went silent. Two minutes later, a wave of vocal energy exploded 20 blocks behind us and made its way to us, through us, and onto those who marched ahead of us. For the first time in all my years in NYC, I stood in a sea of people and all I could hear was wind through the trees, birds twittering, the collective breath of the crowd, and one lone helicopter whose propellor beat quietly to keep us all intensely aware that the world was indeed watching.
At the core of my being, I believe that all of the human beings on this planet are connected in visible and invisible ways; that we are more similar than we are different; that everyone is doing the absolute best they can with what they have. But sometimes I also wonder if we are asleep. I wonder if people see the suffering of their fellow human beings and recognize their own role in the perpetuation of that suffering. I wonder if they really understand the long term effects of buying one more bottle of water or one more cheap t-shirt. I wonder if they recognize their own power, especially as a whole. I wonder if we have become so complacent, so utterly dependent on convenience that we are excusing ourselves right into our own destruction.
And then I march with 400,000+ of my closest friends and a roar goes up through the crowd and my insides shake and I am overwhelmed by gratitude for the opportunity to experience and feel this… and I am suddenly very aware again of just how awake we are.
My 11 year old nephew showed up at the march just as we were ready to start and he was flushed with excitement. He looked up at me with genuine awe and said, “Jenni, I can’t believe how many people are here. This is going to go down in history.” Despite multiple conversations about how important and record breaking this event was likely to be, it wasn’t until he experienced the energy of walking beside so many people, united for a cause, that it all truly resonated within him. His sister, generally a bit jaded by the horrors of our world, marched beside him. At the end of the march I asked her how she was feeling and she replied with a smile, “I am feeling a bit better about humanity right now. People aren’t so bad, really.”
This is why we show up. This is why we march.
Not only do I care about climate change, not only do I believe that the people have the right and the power to create the world we live in. I also believe that it is our responsibility to ensure that our children feel their own power, that they are given the opportunity to roar, share that roar with us and through us, and, in doing so, connect us all to those who have marched and roared before.
We have a responsibility to show our children what “us” really means.
There is more work to be done. No march is going to “fix” the devastating effects of climate change. No march is going to ensure the rights of the oppressed. No march is going to end the war. However, no mass change, no righting of any wrong has ever been accomplished without people in the streets. If we stop marching, if we stop gathering and uniting as one voice we may very well forget just how powerful we are, what power and strength in numbers feels like. We just might forget what “us” really means (hint: it has nothing to do with “them”).
We do not march with any illusions of magical change. We march to remind ourselves that we are not alone and we are not as divided as some would like us to believe.