Well, we went to the Black Lives Matter demo.
It was organized for older adults and people with disabilities and really anyone wanting to march but afraid to because of Covid-19. The idea was to bring a sign and a chair and occupy all four corners of a very busy intersection. And that’s what we did – several hundred of us – all wearing masks and carrying our canvas chairs. It was a catalog of old lefties, legions of people in their LL Bean shirts and sensible shoes and, on each of our faces, was the deep earnest look of the people we were when we first held signs for civil rights decades ago.
We put our Packer chairs at the curb and held our signs in our laps. When cars went by, we raised the signs over our heads and waved them in time to drivers’ honking. It’s a grand rush to have people lean out car windows with a Black power fist, especially if they are Black because then it feels like you’re appreciated, your White Packer-chair-sitting, sign-waving, flawed, clumsy, covered with layers of White privilege you’re only beginning to peel off and examine like bandages from a long ago plastic surgery-self.
Behind us and around the corner were the speakers, and there were some powerful ones. One of them was a White guy, a local union leader, who took the microphone and started in on the theme “There is no better place to be!” And he shouted this, which surprised me because he is an old man now and uses two canes to get around, and he was so loud and definite, irresistible in his claim that despite the tragedies that brought us to this moment, there was no better place to be than together on this day, on this street, with our signs, saying Black Lives Matter.
THERE IS NO BETTER PLACE TO BE!
Across the street was a man wearing a yarmulke and a prayer shawl. He held a big sign which said “Jews Against State Violence.” And because my husband is Jewish, I was glad to see this and so we tried to get a picture of him from across the street but the passing cars were in the way. It heartened us, a mostly Jewish family, to see this man and we were grateful.
Then there was commotion. People on foot marching down the street, young people shouting Black Lives Matter!, carrying cardboard signs, a couple hundred of them, their presence was like an electric shock to a failing heart and we were all on our feet and exuberant and, almost in that moment, passing a torch we didn’t even know we were holding to young people who had already gone on without us and it was a beautiful thing, I tell you, the most beautiful thing ever.
I waved my Black Lives Matter sign in the air until the edges started to fray. And out of the fog of the pandemic, all the heartbreak of George Floyd, revisiting rage I had hanging in my closet from four, six, nine, nineteen years ago about Black men killed by the police in our town for no reason, looking out at the crowd, the gray heads, I came home to a community.
I was there. With my chair and my sign.
There was no better place to be.