I was really affected this evening as I took photos of the Youth Alliance for People’s Justice event at the PappaJohn Sculpture Garden in downtown Des Moines.
This was a Climate Strike and Voter Registration Event.
I know many people don’t see the value in gatherings like this. Wonder whether they have any affect on people who would have influence regarding what they are trying to call attention to. This one did include working on voter registration.
But there is another point to gatherings like this, the effect on those gathered. Trying to call attention to injustice often feels very lonely. It means a lot to have others join you, doing the work together, and helps build a movement.
There were several occasions I can think of when I was literally alone. I had to ask someone to take this photo, since I didn’t have anyone accompanying me for this about the dangers of oil trains carrying bitumen from the tar sands fields.
Another time, I asked a woman who always sat on the circle in downtown Indianapolis, knitting, to take this photo for me. This was when I/we were working on defunding the Dakota Access pipeline. I had thought a few of my coconspirators would show up, and hold the sign while I went into the Chase Bank (behind me) to tell them why I was closing my account, and close it. Since no one else showed up, unplanned, I took the sign into the bank with me. If you’re interested to know more, I wrote the whole story here: Defunding Experience. Well, that describes what happened that day. But there is a follow-up story about my return visit to the bank: Return to Chase Bank.
Then there was the time I walked through a crowd of hundreds of people carrying the sign below, “Quakers Know Black Lives Matter.” I had forgotten it was the weekend of the Black Expo. I very nearly turned around then. But didn’t.
As I watched and listened to the young people in Des Moines today, I was transported back in time. It was like I was observing a younger version of myself, 50 years younger. I can hardly imagine returning to my youth.
I do remember how difficult it can be to get others to join you (as noted above). And the awkwardness of speaking in front of a crowd. The nervousness.
I’m feeling hope, pride, and encouraged by these young people and the work they are doing.