Over the weekend, I was lucky enough to attend a protest in New York City. I was going to visit my sister, who lives there, keeping in mind not to go out to many places and to stay inside. It was a ghost town. The city that once never slept seemed to be in hibernation. Doors were closed, lights were off, streets were empty, cars were quiet. I was thankful that social distancing was being taken seriously, but so caught off guard by what I hadn’t seen. The impact of what is going on is greater than the community we live in. In Richmond, I see parks filled with students and parties on random streets. Not to say people weren’t outside in New York, but it wasn’t New York. Not really.
As I sat on the empty subway that held only my family, I didn’t know what to expect of Wall Street. What I saw, I couldn’t believe. Men, women and children of every race, identity and political party standing together for one common cause: unity. The march began outside the New York Stock exchange office and ended at The Trump Building on 40th Wall Street. Chanting we love our black women, we love our black men, we love our black children—chanting about love and acceptance.
I stood there looking as little boys held their mother’s hands in solidarity. Everyone was angry, yes, but anger isn’t what drove everyone. It was love and hope. The hope that one day we can all can be loved the same despite our differences. The hope that one day we will all be acknowledged as people in the eyes of the nation. The hope that we will have someone who speaks for all people in charge of our country.
For a long time, I’ve been embarrassed to be an American. It feels wrong to “rep” the flag or support a country that doesn’t support all its people. I haven’t felt proud to be an American in a long time. But I was proud this weekend. Because I am proud to be an American when I am surrounded by what America should be. We watch “Schoolhouse Rock” as children and are told we are in the “great American melting pot.” But then we’re slowly told that the ingredients to that pot really only matter if you’re a specific type of person. A specific race, a specific gender, a specific faith, a specific sexuality. But I want to be proud again.
I am proud of the people I saw this weekend. I am proud to be a part of a country that has those people. I am proud to be a part of a country where people spend their Saturdays speaking up for what they believe in. I stood there listening to people who support other people and cheer for people and was reminded that we are all so capable of so much. Maybe I’m not proud to be an American right now, but I am proud to be a part of something so much more than a country. Emma Goldman said, “The demand for equal rights in every vocation of life is just and fair; but, after all, the most vital right is the right to love and to be loved.”