Making a Movement
It’s impossible to read the story of Palm Sunday this morning, of course, and not think about what happened in our city and in cities across the country just yesterday. Like 2000 years ago in Jerusalem, people in our country seem to be longing for change, and many Americans were determined to make a statement with their presence in the streets. You answered a call to show up—a large group of Riversiders turned out for the March for Our Lives, people of faith telling the world that gun violence in our country has to end, that we need better laws to protect vulnerable communities from the evil of gun violence in the classroom and in our streets and even in our backyards.
I myself spent most of Friday afternoon painstakingly working on my sign for the protest—a huge feat since I am not an artist by any stretch of the imagination. I did that because I, too, have been caught up in the energy sweeping our country especially since the shooting at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School. As you know, these efforts are led by young people who are tired of waiting for adults to make change and deciding instead to take things into their own hands. But as I sat at my dining room table working on my protest sign, getting everything ready to show up early Saturday morning, I couldn’t help but think of something DeRay McKesson said when he was here at Riverside in February. He looked out over this nave, packed with well-meaning people who showed up to talk about racism in our country, and he said something like: “You all are so good at making protest signs—beautiful signs that you bring out into the streets with the crowds. You show up for the protests. But when it comes to doing the hard work of changing the systems that cause injustice—when it comes to making changes that impact your own comfort and privilege—you don’t go there.”
Parkland students and other young activists who organized the March for Our Lives are not focused solely on one day of people flooding the streets of every city in America. They are focused instead on real, substantive change, and that change is found in the hard work of shifting laws and systems, of moving an entire culture toward a new way of seeing the world. This is happening, not just with one day of protesting in the streets, but with countless hours of preparation, with massive efforts to register new voters, with campaigns like Parents Promise to Kids—kids who are too young to vote getting their parents to pledge only to vote for legislators who prioritize the safety of children over guns.