Young women on the way to the 10-2-2010 rally
Continuing the struggle
As I clear my head and think back over my impressions of the rally in Washington, I will take away with me images of the many young faces I saw there; on the buses, in the DC Metro, in the crowd, and as speakers on the program.
Not that there weren’t plenty of middles and silver-hairs in the crowd.
But what gives me hope for the future was the engagement of youth. For they will continue a struggle begun before we were born and they will continue that struggle long after many of us who are reading here have passed on.
Cross-posted from Black Kos Tuesday’s Chile
I am not much of a photographer. Most of the time I forgot I had a camera with me, so I’m grateful that DKos diarist Blue Jersey Mom sent some of the pictures she took there too. Thank you BJM.
I started my journey to DC at 4AM on Saturday in Ulster county NY. I drove to the home of two of my favorite union organizers. One a former Black Panther Party Member, and one a former member of the Young Lords. They are married, to each other, and to the fight for change. Both now organize full time in SEIU-1199 because health care workers have been a core base of progressive fighters for many long years.
We drove through the dark to St. Lukes Hospital in the city of Newburgh in Orange County. A hospital that services a very poor, mostly minority but also white poor population; one of the most depressed areas in the Catskill region.
There was a convoy of buses waiting, filled with nurses, lab techs, dietitians, and maintenance workers. Many brought their children with them. It was not yet daylight when we pulled out, headed for DC to the sound of cheers in Spanish and English.
Our bus driver was young Dominican. My guess is he was in his mid-twenties. I got to sit right behind him for the next 6 hours, and we had an interesting conversation as we headed towards the turnpike. He is voting for Democrats, but was a bit disgusted with the inability of the Democratic Party to take a hard line progressive stance, pointing to the obdurate solidarity that Republican teabaggers espouse. He wished that we exhibited more of that unanimity – but towards moving forward.
But he told me he will vote. In spite of his criticisms. He said “any Latino who votes for the “Party of Racismo” is “loco“.
The union bus captains took a roll call, and handed out sign-up sheets for folks traveling on the bus to sign up for the get out the vote efforts for the upcoming election. The travel time between NY and DC was not wasted in simply sight-seeing.
Our trip into DC seemed to take forever. We got stuck in a traffic jam caused by construction, near the beltway so by the time we rolled into the RFK stadium parking lot it was already after 12 noon.
There were lines and lines of buses as far as I could see, and as we streamed off the buses we were given detailed maps, a roundtrip metro pass from Stadium to Farragut West and had been given wristbands with the cell phone number of the Bus Captain and the bus number – in case we got separated.
In the stadium lot there were several huge tents and what looked like thousands of cases of bottled water, along with huge stacks of signs which we could pick up to take to the rally. Union members serving as Marshals directed us towards the walk in the hot sun to the Metro station.
We were told to stick together with our bus group – no easy task in the eager crowd headed toward the subway. There were women with baby strollers and older people in wheelchairs.
When we got to the metro station we found a huge bottleneck. There were not enough trains, and only one crowded stairway down into the station. We had to wait. One lone Metro worker with a bullhorn was attempting to stem the tide.
Quite a few people attempted to find cabs but there were none in sight.
What seemed like an hour, but was probably no more than 35 minutes or so later we made it down into the Metro station for the 10 stop ride to where we would exit to head toward the Lincoln memorial.
Cramming into the train that arrived (not an unusual activity for New Yorkers) I remembered I had the camera and managed to snap a quick pic:
I loved the logo on the back of the SEIU tee-shirts “Standing up for the change we voted for”.
As we exited the train and go to street level there were local DC folks stationed waiting to greet us and head us in the direction of the rally.
We walked the 12 blocks to the park pretty quickly, slightly discouraged to see that as we were heading in – other folks seemed to be leaving. A quick inquiry made to a few folks on the way out got the response that they had to head back to their buses – some had more than a 14 hour journey to return home, so had to cut the rally short.
When we got into the park, our plan had been to go to an SEIU area, but we realized that with the density of the crowd nearer the stage it would be impossible, so we found a spot to sit, where we could see one of the jumbotrons and I shaded my eyes trying to see:
Blue Jersey Mom was able to get a shot of the speakers platform on the Memorial steps:
We had arrived just as Marian Wright Edelman came to the stage.
Though I could not find a transcript of what she said, she raised all of the issues presented in this piece she wrote recently:
Recently released U.S. Census Bureau data confirmed our worst fears about the impact of this deep recession. Nearly four million more Americans fell into poverty in 2009: 44 million or one in seven of us are unable to meet our basic needs. Worst of all, children, our most vulnerable group, experienced the steepest rise in poverty and the largest single-year increase since the 1960s. After dropping twenty-four percent between 1992 and 2000, the number of children in poverty increased more than one-third between 2000 and 2009. An additional 1.4 million children swelled the ranks of poor children to 15.5 million children-more than one in five children. This almost ten percent increase in child poverty over 2008 is shameful, disturbing, and threatening news for millions of our nation’s children – unless our nation addresses their human emergency needs.
Our youngest children are most at risk of being poor, at the very same time that their brains are rapidly developing and attention to their developmental needs is so important. More than five million children under age five are poor, and 2.4 million live in extreme poverty.Children of color continue to suffer disproportionately from poverty. Black and Hispanic children are about three times as likely to be poor as White non-Hispanic children. In 2009, more than one in three Black children (4 million) and one in three Hispanic children (5.6 million), compared to more than one in ten White non-Hispanic children (4.9 million), lived in poverty. Race still matters a lot.
Almost 60 percent of poor children – 9.2 million – lived in single parent families but married couple families were not immune to the recession’s effects. Nearly nine percent more married couple families were poor in 2009 than in 2008. And two-thirds of poor families had one or more family members working.
Education was the theme of many of the speakers that followed, and the call for “jobs, justice and education” was written on many of the hand held placards.
Teachers, the teachers union and the NEA were out in force:
Most inspiring for me were the many young people who spoke, each detailing how much college debt they would be carrying, and others who simply asked for a chance to remain in the US; the most gripping was the speech of a young man whose parents had been deported, and only a last minute stay of his deportation gave him the opportunity to speak.
Many other issues of importance to us all were highlighted by speakers, on banners and signs:
and this humorous assessment of economic theory:
We stayed till a few minutes after 4PM, cheering waving our signs and listening. I was surrounded by a sea of faces of all colors, smiling faces, faces that looked neither down nor discouraged. Buoyed by the solidarity expressed over and over by the speakers, we all were heartened to redouble our efforts to get out the vote. The reflections in the pool that day were of the nation we are supposed to be – black, white, latino, asian, native american, young, old, straight and GLBTQ. Union members and church folks, the working class and the unemployed. Civil Rights Groups, Peace groups, and Environmental groups.
A sea of solidarity. I like this photo of young people in their NAACP tee’s:
As we headed back to the bus our train was stuck in the subway for over an hour, and when we got back on the bus we were told by our driver that a family member of one of the union folks had just died of a heart attack on another bus.
We held a moment of silence, a young sister on the bus said a prayer, and we pulled out. Sobered by the thought that a comrade had died to get to DC. They made it there but would not make it home. We vowed to fight on in their memory, and in the memory of all those who died on our path toward freedom.
On one of the buses in our convoy a person took ill, and we had to stop for a while to wait for an ambulance. By the time we pulled back into Newburgh it was after 2:30 AM. I got home by 3:30. Too tired to even think about what had happened – to sort out the jumble of images in my mind.
Today, looking back to Saturday I can simply say this. I don’t care what the media says, I don’t even care what a host of negative diarists say at DKos.
I saw the coalition I will continue to fight for. I saw people who are going to keep fighting for change. And I saw people who are going to vote, and it ain’t gonna be for the Tea Party.
That was worth the long trip. Yes, we still have a long way to go. But none of us is alone in this fight.