America on fire, yet again

the historic second March on Washington and bits from the chaos of August

Ainhoa Woodley writes about her experience last week at the March on Washington:

Matt Brown / USA Today

A fervent perseverance permeated the humid air of Washington, D.C’s Union Station upon my arrival the night before the March on Washington. People communicated with solemn nods while “Black” by Buddy played from a Bluetooth speaker. We moved from the platform into the tense D.C. darkness. It was an introduction to the Capitol that set the scene for the coming morning – enraged yet determined, broken yet united. 

Friday morning brought the promise of good trouble and healing anger when we left. It grew stronger as we approached Black Lives Matter plaza, newly painted in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, commissioned by the D.C mayor. The hot and damp sunlight did not deter the procession of protestors migrating to the Lincoln Memorial, nor the myriad of vendors selling shirts and face masks, nor the groups handing out free water and goldfish. 

In this way, even before our official arrival, the journey to the nation’s reflecting pool made it clear that the community was collaborating with one another for the procurement of justice.

Matt Brown / USA Today

The urgency to be among like-minded citizens, sharing a moment of livid harmony as our ancestors did exactly fifty-seven years ago, was extraordinary enough to dissolve the chaotic lines. We were led in all together, taken past the pool to the front of the memorial by the call-and-response: “What do we want? Justice.When do we want it? Now.”

For the next hours, the thousands that journeyed by bus, by train and by foot and who came from Illinois to Alabama to New York, gathered beneath the towering elms to revel and remember. I sat on the grass with my legs criss-crossed, leaning forward eagerly, star-struck by the presence of activists and speakers I had only seen in videos. 

I kept mental notes of their revolutionary words: 

  • Ayanna Pressley stating that it is possible to legislate justice, and that if it feels unfamiliar, it is because it has never been done in our nation. 

  • Yolanda King declaring that this will be the generation that moves from me to we. 

  • Al Sharpton proclaiming that they may have killed the dreamer, but they cannot kill the Dream. 

We moved from Lincoln’s feet to Martin Luther King’s memorial before the march began, as having never seen it before I wanted to have a moment to myself before the crowds descended. In the calm before the storm of inspired marchers, I gazed up at King’s omnipresent resolute gaze, preserved in marble that glistened under the midday sun. I felt impassioned by the kinship I felt with his presence – his vision for our shared humanity. 

Matt Brown / USA Today

Then there came the collective sense of power from marching with thousands of people that believe in a communal tomorrow and that justice has yet to be served but can still be delivered: a national community, representing and advocating for each other, sharing sentiments and ambitions, walking together, singing together, chanting together and resting together. 

Matt Brown / USA Today

We are an unhealthy people, coexisting in a system that has permitted some to be alive and condemned others to survive. Yet the movement towards justice is something others have learned to recognize, to listen to and to fight alongside. The communal determination of the day had shown that community is how we will transform our nation, and that the original Dream we came for is still attainable.

Ainhoa Woodley (she/her) is an aspiring social justice advocate working in equitable and accessible education with public school students in Philadelphia.

Possibly one of the most memorable photos came from the Thursday night during Trump’s Republican National Convention speech where protesters held signs representing the death count from COVID-19 in America:

Matt Brown / USA Today


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