By Louise McCormick
As a rural New Yorker by upbringing, the culture shock of coming to Washington, DC initially blew me away. For such a small area, Washington DC is remarkably passionate about telling and building our nation’s history and progress, with good reason– they are the home of our nation’s president, home to our national monuments, and home to some of the most socially conscious people in the country.
The march was a bit of an embarrassing wake up call to me. Before I came to live in DC, I had no idea that its people lacked equal representation in Congress. It was strongly counterintuitive that the citizens of our nation’s capital are treated as second-class by the federal government, but the speakers who I heard in the morning made it clear that their disenfranchisement was an extension of age-old voter suppression strategies against African-Americans, who make up the largest racial population of DC. As one protestor’s sign boldly put it, “If it smells like Jim Crow, it is Jim Crow.” In fact, the march took place on the anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr’s “I Have a Dream Speech” and National Geographic took pains to compare a picture of that iconic protest with our march on Saturday, people still fighting for recognition almost sixty years apart.
Even though the march was an appeal for our federal government to recognize the equal worth and dignity of DC’s citizens (as one speaker put it, to end an “assault on Imago Dei”, the truth that we are all made in the image and likeness of God) the emotions of the people who marched were often upbeat, jovial, and energetic. There was music, dancing, and ceaseless chanting for justice. It was a time when I asked God to clear my mind of my own thoughts, and attempt to take in the spirit of those around me, the spirit of the oppressed.
This is not to say that the march was ultimately about having fun or feeling good about yourself. But in the face of dehumanization, one clear method of resistance is to resist giving into despair, which I imagine must be a familiar emotion to many of these full-time activists. There was anger, and there was forcefulness to the words and chanting of the protestors, but there was also strength, solidarity, and hope. All of these things echo Martin Luther King Jr’s very same sentiments over half a century ago.
Toole, Tucker C. “Thousands Demand the U.S. Protect Voting Rights under Fire.” Culture, National Geographic, 30 Aug. 2021, https://www.nationalgeographic.com/culture/article/thousands-demand-the-us-protect-voting-rights-under-fire.
“U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts: District of Columbia.” Census Bureau QuickFacts, United States Census Bureau, https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/DC. Accessed 30 Aug. 2021.