Wednesday 9 November 2016 was surreal and terrifying. After a day of struggling to focus at work, I felt the joyous relief of taking to the streets with more than a thousand Millennials of seemingly every race – chanting, smiling, blocking vehicle traffic.
Collectively asserting our First Amendment right was cathartic. But seeing the joy spread to bystanders – including many of the blocked motorists – was electrifying.
After marching on Broad Street past Lehigh Avenue, we entered the narrow residential streets of North Philadelphia. The boisterous crowd that had filled Broad Street was now squeezed into 16th Street (near Huntingdon Ave).
Nearly half of the homes were boarded up or missing all together. The other homes – on the contrary – were alive with smiling, cheering residents standing in doorways, watching from 2nd story windows, taking videos, holding children.
I imagined parents struggling all day to explain to concerned kids that it will be OK, or that they might have been harassed at school. But for the moment, the children appeared elated.
In showing support for this community, we directed our outrage toward the building up of solidarity – the opposite of violence. For the marchers and for the residents, I believe, the experience sparked a kernel of much needed hope.