by Alice Pencavel
I am drawn to those experiences that accentuate my smallness and my greatness simultaneously — to feel my choices and actions have consequence, while also acknowledging how so very small I am in the great scheme of things. This sensation — which to me imbues a deepened sense of purpose — was the prevailing spirit of the NYC Climate March of 2014.
Everyone who had any stake in anything regarding our Earth was there: families, scientists, academics, anarchists, dancers, drummers, honey bee advocates, forest/ocean/glacier preservationists, theater practitioners, architects, church groups, choirs, celebrities, gardeners, teachers, an estimated 400,000 trekking through the barred off city streets — how strangely barren those streets appeared, especially when we finally made our way through Times Square — a place I otherwise associate with oppressive populations and advertisements, but was, on this day, after migrating from Columbus Circle down Fifth Avenue, devoid of everything but those lone, far above screens bouncing with petty reasons to spend, and no other beings except us, a thick sludgy line of marchers trekking West within the corralled confines of those metal police fence-like things. The day was filled with phases: marching alongside one cohort, then another, sticking with my friends and loved ones, while still taking in the beautiful variety around us, purpose deepening with every step.
Nothing parallels the moment of silence we took before the march began. A message passed down from the front: “In five minutes, we’re taking a minute of silence, pass it down.” When the silence came, a most beautiful hush cloaked us all, all of us abiding the choice. The thought that so many bodies, (most of which were, until then, rowdy, chatty, blowing horns and sharing laughs), could make a gesture so bold, and agree that this gesture was worthy of commitment, triggered of wince of tears to tug at my ducts — even now, just recalling it, I feel the hairs of my arms stand up. How tremendously beautiful to share a silence with more people than I could even see, and would never know. And when the silence broke, it came in a shower of cheers that rippled across us all, uniting us deeper, as we began our trek across the city in the name of love for the home we share.
The D.C. Womens March will be, without a doubt, a different beast entirely. A different impetus draws me to this demonstration, one that feels more charged and severe. The tiers of threat this new presidency poses have made — in the last few months alone — all the world cone into a funnel of desperate immediacy. This Saturday, I march to stand with those also afraid. I march to remind myself I am not alone, but one of many. I march to assert that my actions have consequences, that every voice matters, that hope, love, and resistance are our greatest sources for survival and triumph.
Alice Pencavel is a California-born, Brooklyn-based writer and teaching artist.
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