"I should not go. People who go to protests bring trouble on themselves" my mother's voice whispered in my ear.
"But it is a peaceful protest", I told myself.
"But you won't know anyone there. What if you don't belong?" my other self countered.
I went back and forth between wanting to go and being scared to go. Finally I made a plan. I would go. I would not wait to be invited. I would not wait for a friend to go with me. I would go. The event was scheduled from 5-8pm last Sunday. The crowd was encouraged to wear masks and social distance. I drove myself to the downtown location.
What I learned from my first ever protest:
1. Bringing a chair was brilliant! I knew I would not be able to stand for that long, so I brought a foldable chair.
2. Next time I will bring a hat and a cooling scarf (those wet ones I wear for yard work). Five o-clock in Texas, in the month of June, is too hot to be out without a way to cool down.
3. The best shady spots go quickly and are crowded. Next time bring an umbrella and sunscreen. Did I mention it was sunny and hot?
4. I could have made a sign, but I didn't have to. 9x12 on cardboard (like an old box) is the hardiest and most practical.
5. The Black Lives Matter protest/rally was well funded, as volunteers distributed water to participants as needed. However, next time I will bring more water with me, since I'm picky about what I like to drink. People with experience wore backpacks that held their extra needs. The event was very orderly. People were considerate. Many observed the six foot distance and most had on masks.
6. This was not an event only for the Black community. There were many other people there, of many other colors and ethnicities, of a great variety of ages. One of the signs I saw said "I might never fully understand your experience, but I stand with you in solidarity." Another sign explained that although "All lives do matter, right now the lives that need our focus and attention are the Black lives." An analogy I really like is this: "Save the whales" doesn't mean you could care less about all other sea creatures, it just means that that particular sea creature, the whale, is in specific need of attention. I didn't need to be invited or given permission to go. This was a community event and I am part of the community.
7. As I spent time there observing and participating in some of the chants, I noticed that it was a come-and-go event. People came and went as they saw fit. I stayed for a bit over 2 hours and then left. I was pleased with myself and glad that I had taken a step outside of my confort zone. I came home and wrote about the experience. After the BLM event I read online. This was the thrid event in as many weeks put on by the group, and the best attended. Over 1,000 people went.
A few more gathersings are planned in the area. My question is, now what? Protests and gatherings are great, but they won't by themselves produce change. People must come together to formulate clear goals. What needs to change? Think on it. I know I will.