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The Fierce Urgency of Now

“Somebody’s hurting my brother
and it’s gone on far too long (Yes, it’s gone on far too long)
and we won’t be silent anymore
(and we won’t be silent anymore)”

The familiar hum of the highway had become background noise to the soulful and raspy voice of Mr. Charles Neblett, who was an original Freedom Singer. Mr.  Neblett’s voice echoed off the walls of the metal charter bus. With every verse, the voice of a stranger rose up and sang along. It did not take long until the entire bus was clapping and singing along to the words of songs about freedom, revolution and love.

There is always this moment before I step onto a charter bus or a van where I try to talk myself out of leaving for the adventure. I remind myself my body will be sore, my eyelids will grow heavy, and my mind will find no rest. And then, there is this moment where the bus full of strangers reminds me of the magic that can bloom into this world. The passionate sea of voices, led by Mr. Charles Neblett, was just one reminder I received that day, and for that I will be forever thankful.

The thunderstorm that was promised on June 23 never came. Rain did not pitter-patter against the concrete sidewalks and city streets. Thunder did not roar against the graying sky. Lightening did not flash its static rage against the Washington, D.C. skyline. 

Instead, I found myself walking on to a merely damp National Mall. Fog had rested itself between the grass and among the trees, just thick enough I could barely see the Capitol Building.

I spent the next couple of hours standing on the padded National Mall, surrounded by people of all ages and races; a huddled mass of change-makers. The capitol and the trees spread across its sides were distorted by the stage, screens, posters and flags proudly proclaiming that Black Lives Matter and to Fight Poverty Not the Poor.

I stood and listened to the roaring honesty of every speech. From the words of Reverend Dr. William Barber to that of Reverend Dr. Liz Theoharis, and from the words of every person who spoke on that stage, I was shown the humanity through which we all relate.

Every speech is a reminder of the way systems of oppression grow like vines tangling around the skin, bones and teeth of neighbors and strangers. Every speech is a reminder that these immoralities exist in this world and not just on an academic page. Every crack in the voice of the orator is the subtle reminder of how poverty, ecological devastation, militarism, racism and a distorted moral narrative can cause so much pain.

I get goosebumps when I listen to these people speak, their words always end with a hope that we as a people can carry and sustain towards creating change.

As the rally was ending and the march was beginning, the final speech was given by a young poet; only 17. She was tired of writing about oppression, reading about oppression, facing an oppression so tightly wrapped around her bones all she can do is ache. I cannot stop thinking about the words of this poet.

I am only 21 years old and I wonder if 21 is too young to already be tired of writing, reading and facing oppression. I am afraid that 17 is too young to already be tired and I am afraid of growing up in a world where classrooms have turned into war zones and the autonomy of my body is still up for debate.

Somebody is hurting my sister and I am afraid for her. Somebody is hurting my sister and it has gone on far too long. And we won’t be silent anymore. And it is in the fact that we won’t be silent anymore the hope is able to bloom in the chaotic foundations of this world. Hope grows in the huddled masses who sing and listen to one another. Hope grows in the fact that the systems of oppression, despite their un-naming, can be challenged through difficult conversations.

The systems can be challenged by working to create change everyday. Everyday, I get to wake up and work for a better world. I get to grow in community with strangers who hold me accountable to the words I say and to the actions I take.

On June 23 I got on a bus with strangers and traveled to Washington, D.C. On June 23, as the moon began to rise I got on a bus with a community who have not and will not be silent anymore.

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