Five Reasons Why Taking to the Streets Still Matters

Friday, January 20, 2017 - 5:30 am
A girl dances to the beat of a drum line during a protest after the funeral of Freddie Gray, on April 28, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland.

Five Reasons Why Taking to the Streets Still Matters

As inauguration day approaches, many news outlets are predicting that the Women’s March on Washington, D.C. may be the biggest march in U.S. history, in addition to another 616 marches set to occur across the world. If you’re still on the fence about whether to join or not, here’s my plea to get you out of the house:

1. It’s visceral.

For many of us, so much of our lives are spent staring into screens, tapping away at keyboards, sending signals into an intangible universe of bits and bytes. It all adds up to something, surely, but sometimes that something can feel wildly disconnected from the someone. Us! Who we really are. What we really care about. Our bodies. Marching is a chance to reclaim all of that — the corporeal, the relational, the sensorial.

2. It’s visual.

In this “post-truth presidency,” as Parker put it, it’s never been more important to give the news media something that is recordable and cannot be denied. If millions take to the streets, there’s a photo-op. Where there’s a photo-op, there’s a story. Where there’s a story, there’s power. We’ve already lost so much to algorithms and misleading polls; this is something analog and countable.

3. It’s restorative.

There’s little else that can make the hardened heart supple again like pounding your feet into the streets beside perfect strangers joined in common cause. Common is the key here. As we scroll through Facebook feeds, which theoretically are supposed to connect us, too many of us are feeling isolated and hopeless. Marching side by side, smiling at one another, singing spontaneous chants in unison — this is the stuff that re-aligns your backbone and gets you feeling courageous and in cahoots again.   

4. It’s playful.

It’s so simple. It’s so unapologetic. It’s almost childlike in its own strange way. And where there is play and joy, there is sustainability. This is going to be a long haul fight, not a one-weekend affair. If we’re going to keep going, we’re going to need to laugh and dance and move. As Rebecca Solnit writes,

Joy doesn’t betray but sustains activism. And when you face a politics that aspires to make you fearful, alienated and isolated, joy is a fine act of insurrection.”

5. It’s effective.

You know who else took to the streets? The Velvet Revolution. And the Civil Rights marchers. And the second-wave feminists. And so many other movements that won — if not reaching all of their aims, at least having transformed cultures, systems, and hearts and minds so dramatically as to be considered hugely effective. The Internet’s existence doesn’t delegitimize the power of marching; if anything, it enhances it and creates even more cause to do it. Because there are only so many petitions you can sign and calls you can make.

Put your shit-kickers on, get a warm pair of gloves, and go make someone’s day a little inconvenient by taking over public space and looking into the eyes of people who feel, as you do, that our nation is worth marching for. I’ll be one of the faces in the crowd, thanking you with my smiling eyes.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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is a columnist for On Being. Her column appears every Friday.

Her newest book, The New Better Off: Reinventing the American Dream, explores how people are redefining the American dream (think more fulfillment, community, and fun, less debt, status, and stuff). Courtney is the co-founder of the Solutions Journalism Network and a strategist for the TED Prize. She is also co-founder and partner at Valenti Martin Media and FRESH Speakers Bureau, and editor emeritus at Feministing.com.

Courtney has authored/edited five books, including Do It Anyway: The New Generation of Activists, and Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters: How the Quest for Perfection is Harming Young Women. Her work appears frequently in The New York Times and The Washington Post. Courtney has appeared on the TODAY Show, Good Morning America, MSNBC, and The O’Reilly Factor, and speaks widely at conferences and colleges. She is the recipient of the Elie Wiesel Prize in Ethics and a residency from the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Centre. She lives with her partner in life and work, John Cary, in Oakland, and their daughters Maya and Stella. Read more about her work at www.courtneyemartin.com.

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