Before this event, I had never been to a political march, protest, or rally, but my heart was definitely telling me that this was one that I absolutely had to go to.
I made plans with a fellow Meredith College ’16 Alum, Lindsay, to meet up, and I went out and bought a poster to decorate at 2 AM that very morning.
On my 1-hour drive to Raleigh later on that day, I started second-guessing myself. Did I know what I was getting myself into? Had I really thought this through? Was this worth the criticism that I would receive? Yes, yes it was. And so I kept driving, all while jamming out and getting hyped up by the “Hamilton” soundtrack.
Parking was terrible. I don’t miss living in Raleigh. Once I found a parking spot, it wasn’t hard to find the rally destination because I followed a crowd of people with posters. As I was walking to Halifax Mall, something inside me kept telling myself to turn around. “You aren’t a protester, Brooke,” it kept saying. “You don’t care for crowds.” But I kept pushing on. I’m not a fan of our newest president, but I was silently hoping that this wasn’t an Anti-Trump Bashing Session. And, I must admit, a teeny tiny part of me was worried that this peaceful rally would take a turn for the worst. You just never know…
As I walked up to the large crowd that was already forming in the mall courtyard, I realized that tears were building up in my eyes. (Granted, it was freezing that afternoon, but go with me on this one) There were so many people there, and the diversity represented was astounding! After a while, chants started, and it was beautiful and heart-warming to see everybody stand and shout in unison about how refugees are welcome and how we all must stay united.
(As for the whole Trump topic, of course he was mentioned, but it wasn’t as bad as I honestly expected: One speaker said, “We have to understand that this (biases against other cultures/religions/people) is a problem that has developed over hundreds of years… this is not a Trump problem: it’s an American problem, and Trump is merely a symptom of the problem.”)
Here are some pictures:
Lindsay showed up right in time for the speeches, and the speakers were brilliant. One particular speaker, Felipe de Jesus Molina Mendoza, had the whole crowd in tears as he shared his life story. He grew up in the United States as an undocumented individual and decided to return to Mexico to pursue a higher education. While in Mexico, he openly came out as a gay man, and he was persecuted and assaulted to the point that he truly feared for his life. The Mexican authorities refused to help him, saying that it was his fault that he was being targeted because of the way he chose to live his life. Because of this, he tried to return to the United States, and he was held in a detention for 7 months in California. He shared his experiences in the detention, telling the crowd that the detention center had terrible hygiene, no privacy (their toilets were openly out in the room – like a jail cell!), and he was also wrongly accused of trying to have sexual relations with other men in the center (checking the tapes, they admitted that he was innocent). After they granted his release and approved his stay in the United States, he had to pay $7,000 to get out. (Can you say “corrupt”????) Luckily, his family was able to raise the money to release him, but other people don’t have that luxury… Felipe found out this past Christmas Eve that he was going to be deported on Valentines Day (of this year!). His request to stay has been revoked since Mexico passed a law for equal marriage, but we all know that laws do not necessarily change the hearts of the public. He is such a kind guy, and he wants to stay here so desperately. He said, “They used to throw bottles at my head. Next time, I may not be so lucky. It could be bullets.”
If you are interested in helping him in any way, here is some information: There will be vigil for Felipe on February 7th, 2017 at 5:30 PM at the Monument of Faith Church in Durham, NC (900 Simmons St.). You may also call Representative G.K. Butterfield at (919) 908-0164 and ask him to call ICE on behalf of Felipe and approve Felipe’s stay. You could also call ICE directly and ask them to stop Felipe’s deportation. Exercise favorable prosecution discretion and approve Felipe’s stay. The ICE number is (202) 732-3000 and they’ll ask for Felipe’s account number, which is #206-252-347. If they say that you have the wrong number, they’re lying. Call again.
I don’t regret going to the rally at all. On my way out, I stopped and thanked a couple of cops that were standing and watching on the side lines. One officer thanked me and another laughed and said, “I swear, this was the nicest rally I’ve ever worked. You are all so nice!”
But… that’s kinda the point, isn’t it? That was the point of this whole rally: showing love and compassion to EVERYBODY.
This land is your land… this land is my land… 🙂
“…. If I have all faith, so as to move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.” – 1 Corinthians 13:2