Think Protests Don't Change Anything? Think Again.

Follow me on instagram: @magpiegirlrachelle. Find actions in your neighborhood #blacklivesmatter + your city.

I don’t know what I thought I’d accomplish, as I strode the long blocks from my office to the main shopping district in downtown Seattle. I hadn’t marched in a long time, and police engagement had changed significantly since then. Our peaceful protests of the Persian Gulf War or efforts to end Aparthied never held the threat of riot gear. But since the Battle in Seattle during the WTO meetings, Seattle lives under the gaze of men in riot gear, with bats in their hands and tear gas clipped to their belts.

But the real reason I’d stopped demonstrating wasn’t fear of the police. It was discouragement.

After so many years of the call and response of what-do-we-want and when-do-we-want-it, I began to question the efficacy of trying to change the system by holding a sign. The terrible slowness of systemic change wore me down and burned me out. And the collapse of my own health required me to be strategic with every joule of energy. Something that didn’t get solid results was something that had to be laid down.

Then yesterday, when Eric Gardner’s story broke on the eve of Michael Brown’s, which came on the heels of Trayvon Martin, which followed any number of unsung and unnoticed histories of Death by Cop — my body called me to step back into the march. I had a massage scheduled that day — a key part of my selfcare. But I couldn’t imagine– Could. Not. Imagine. –lying on a massage table while a protest roared in outrage. So I called, swallowed the cancelation fee, and without hope of change or solution, joined the throng.

In the company of others I walked city blocks, hands held high, as we converted a symbol of surrender to one of power.

In the company of others I shouted, “I can’t breathe” eleven long times.

In the company of others I lay on  the wet streets, staging a die-in, disrupting business as usual.

In the company of others I responded to the charge to “rise up” and recite the names of dozens of unarmed black men and women killed by law enforcement. 

And what I discovered was this:

You cannot take even the symbolic reality of violence into your body and not be changed.

Go ahead, try it.
Raise your arms until you ache.
Lie down, silent, in the cold.
But most of all fill your lungs, engage your voice, and plead for your life eleven times over.

If you do this, I promise, it won’t be a news story any longer. It won’t be someone who looks different than you, lives different that you. It won’t be statistics.

I don’t march to change the system. Not yet. We are too few. The crowds have not yet swelled.

I march to change myself. To cement reality into my sinews. To create a place in my body that will not let me forget, will not let me engage in shadow comforts, will not let me stay cocooned.

Listen friends, what I want to tell you is this.

For so long we have been deconstructing faith and reconstructing soulcare together. We’ve been acknowledging our intrinsic value. We’ve been learning to stand in our own power in the face of patriarchy. We’ve been insisting on respect. This has strengthened us, and shored us up, and restored our voices.

Now is the time to turn that care outward towards our siblings.

This is what our little rituals strengthen us to do.
This is what our sacred rites are meant to support.
This is why we light candles, and drink beet juice, and try to get enough sleep.

Because we are called.
Because we are empowered.
Because we must, above all things, be the change we wish to see in the world.

This is where soulcare and worldcare meet.

What about you, my magpie?

Are you ready to take your well-cared for self and expend some energy for your less-cared for sbilings?
Can you take your well-cared for body and lay it down on the wet streets?
Will you find a right-fit way to act?

I think you are.
I know you can.
I hope you will.

Amen? Amen.

Resources for becoming an ally:

Dear White Allies, Stop Unfriending People Over Ferguson by @spectraspeaks

5 Tips for Being an Ally (video) by Franchesca Ramsey

Dear White People: What we can do about Ferguson by Jen Lemen

#blacklivesmatter #soulcareforworldcare #religish


Patti Bagadion May 31, 2015 at 9:31 pm

I struggle with having compassion for others. Really struggle every day. There are a few things I’ve learned. I probably will never march to protest anything. I will never lay down in the street either. That’s not a right fit for me. And that’s ok, just as its ok for others to do those things. What is a right fit for me is showing everyone I meet their life matters. If I can inspire them to do the same, who knows? Maybe someday those who act as if some lives don’t matter will realize they do. Thanks for your insight.

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