This post first appeared in The Finger Lakes Times (NY), in the weekly column, “Denim Spirit.”
Last Saturday held one of those bewildering moments when the door on one dimension suddenly opens and without warning you fall into another dimension.
Stuck in a slow and ragged recovery from the flu, I was plodding through my publisher’s latest edits of my second novel in order to keep it on track for launch this summer. At the same time, upon the urging of my daughter via text, I was watching UB women in their first Regional NCAA basketball appearance. Though the sun was streaming through the windows, everything else about the moment was granular and sluggish. Then I accidentally turned the channel. It was live coverage of the March for Our Lives.
Immediately I was mesmerized. The size, intensity, and motion of the crowd was visceral. I knew exactly what it felt like to be there because I had been at the Women’s March in January 2016. A million people compressed even into those wide D.C. thoroughfares, moving with a common passion is indescribable. No anti-war demonstration or concert crowd I was ever a part of came close to the empowering sensation of that solidarity.
I watched hundreds of thousands of children chant a demand for change, and cried.
I heard nine-year old Yolanda King, MLK’s only granddaughter, get that humongous crowd to repeat after her: “Spread the word. Have you heard? All across the nation. We are going to be a great generation.” Three times, louder and louder.
An eleven-year-old boy from Brooklyn who lost his brother to gun violence, spoke with the tender heart of a child and the wise soul of a saint. A high school senior from Maryland roused the crowd with the cadence of Robert F. Kennedy.
Then a blond haired blue eyed young girl from Parkland, Florida spoke into the microphone with such intensity even the air around her face seemed to crackle. At one moment she seethed with indignation and anger, and the next held back tears of grief. Acknowledging that her school and community were at the heart of the movement now gathered, and with hundreds of thousands more around the country joining in – including in Geneva and Seneca Falls – she also acknowledged it was their very privilege that made it happen. What of the children of color who suffer from gun violence without our attention, she asked. Indeed, with four children and teens murdered by gun violence every day and another 39 shot, it was the spree of dead in her wealthy community that seems to have been the trip-wire igniting a national movement. (Statistics from The Brady Campaign)
I found myself sobbing as cameras panned the sea of faces, a panoply of rich diversity this post-millennial generation is known for. I listened as children spoke with the eloquence of prophets, as if the very spirit of God was elevating them in the moment. The commentators had the good sense to be silent as the children spoke, and then as Jennifer Hudson, with full gospel choir behind her, belted out “The Times They Are A Changin’” as Bob Dylan could only have dreamed about.
The warm wet saltiness of tears rolled down my cheeks and tasted like hope.