Erin Stillson - DNC Reflection

I went down to Philly, ready for anything.  I expected to be met with hostility, anger, and force.  I was motivated by love for my fellow sisters and brothers, but was willing to be arrested, to fight, to use my body as a shield for any injustice that came to any of my comrades. Instead, I walked into city hall and they greeted me with open arms, love, and gratitude.

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The cops stood as sentinels along the perimeter of all areas, and they tend to make me tense, but instead I smiled, and they smiled back.  One even encouraged my chanting at the DNC protest, (much to his fellow officer's chagrin), and tossed me a cold bottle of water when he saw I was over heating.  Men and women would identify with a sign, or pin, or a smile even, and would walk up and hug me, passing on beautiful thoughts of hope, encouragement, and most of all, Unity. There was a woman who handed me a rose, to show peace and love. One woman placed a handmade bracelet on my wrist, in gratitude for my time and showing solidarity. That bracelet will have to rot off my wrist, because it is now a symbol I will never forget and will never remove. there were some counter-protestors that were hateful and violent in speech, for example a religious group that was preaching that black lives matter was a terrorist group and anti-abortion rhetoric, holding up pictures of aborted babies. My blood was boiling and I screamed at them with so much strength they physically jumped back, but then we joined hands around them and chanted back louder and stronger " BLACK LIVES MATTER!" "WOMEN'S LIVES MATTER!" and threw in the occasional "BREEDERS!"  chant, because it broke the attention and made us laugh, was our moment of triumph.

I was fortunate to have attended with some truly amazing women who helped me navigate the city and provided support in every way.  On the fist day in the city, we went to the People's Convention, which was an amazing experience itself. I participated in a lot of peer led groups, each with different topics, ie.. " what brought you here physically, emotionally, politically, spiritually…" "what is power, and how do we use it to the benefit of the people?" etc… there were many great conversations that erupted from those topics, and I was encouraged to meet so many progressive delegates that came to Philadelphia early to participate in those conversations, there were at least 20 there.   I met people from all over the country there, some from the deep red state of Nebraska, who bore glad tidings that the state was moving blue or green.  It seemed like there were reports all over the nation that there was a lot of revolutionary uprising met with fierce and violent opposition. People were afraid that the country "wasn't ready" for that kind of revolution.  I am hopeful that I changed more than a few minds after explaining that the national climate is approaching what it was in the civil rights movement, and it was even scarier back then because they didn’t have the  letter of the law on their side. Because of their brave and hard work, we have the law on our side,  we have social media that allows us to communicate directly with each other, (Harriet Tubman didn’t have these things yet managed to organize effectively), and we have a generation of people who are more informed and involved than ever before.   

 

Things got much worse before  they got better, and many people didn’t think the nation was ready, but we will never be ready for great strides forward if we allow ourselves to be held back by those who fear change.  We can't stop now while we have the opportunity to move forward.  I was a part of a very helpful presentation on Organizing 101, which detailed how to be an effective leader and organizer, using clear expectations, common goals, and community building for a successful organization.  The afternoon was all capped off with a speech from Jill Stein and Colonel West. Some of the most valuable moments were in networking with such incredible people, all inspirational and offering much needed perspective.

The next day we went to an event focused around political prisoners in america.  It was eye opening and devastating that such injustice is going on behind the scenes in America, activists like Mumia Abdul Jamal were placed in prison back in the 60s, falsely accused of crime, and remain in the prison system today, because they were strong activists for the black panther movement. There was a lot of hope, however, and many people came forward testifying how they fought to have their relatives released and won.  The most important theme I can glean from the week was that there is so much injustice, but alternately so much hope that we can change the system once we wake from it.

We participated in a feminist speak out, where Danny Glover showed up and supported us. We then went to a Black Resistance March, which was powerful, black led, and seemed to grow by the minute, over 8,000 people marching 3 miles to city hall.   We brought watermelon to share with everyone to keep blood sugar stable and water to share to keep people in the march from dehydrating, many people along the march had done the same and dragged coolers full of water for everyone. We sang songs, chants and encouraged each other. We went to the Wells Fargo center and chanted at the superdelegates going into the convention "Hell no DNC, we won’t vote for Hillary" "Election Fraud" and "This is what democracy looks like!"  We also attended a presentation about Capitalism and white supremacy.

There was so much injustice we were protesting, and no one could deny the tension that was felt many times, but the feeling I walk away with is mostly of love, gratitude and inspiration.

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