march 24, 2018.

“Let’s take another picture here; you can see the monument better.”
“Kim,” we all groaned, nearly simultaneously.
“It’s for the Mainstage show. One picture and we’re done.”
Camera flash. “Was that so bad?”
No. No, it wasn’t, but a second feels like an hour here.
The energy, the passion, surrounding us, surrounding me,
felt as though someone was calling my name.
“All I wanna say is that they don’t really care about us.”
 Orange and white shirts worn by teenagers… Black teenagers.
“All I wanna say is that they don’t really care about us.”
The most iconic anti-mass incarceration song sang by the most iconic artist ever.
Orange and white shirts, brown skin. 
It flooded the sidewalk, the street, the atmosphere.
They stopped, locked arms. Bloody Sunday,
a march of King’s, but for the youth. The torch has been passed.
“Say what?”
“All I wanna say is that they don’t really care about us.” 
I want to join them. I need to, but I don’t. We follow Kim.
Black Lives Matter sign held by white folk.
Kim nods. Laura takes a picture.
We look around.
Posters with SpongeBob memes.
This is truly the youth’s revolution.
We climbed over a small barrier, and we’re here now.
Big crowd, lots of screens. Impressive.
I’m a part of history, I realized, so I took a picture.
Speeches continue.
Parkland: 17, Sandy Hook: 20, Columbine: 13.
Parkland: 17, Sandy Hook: 20, Columbine: 13.
Parkland, Sandy Hook, Columbine.
Parkland, Sandy Hook, Columbine.
Parkland, Sandy Hook, Columbine...
Chicago? Brooklyn? Detroit? Compton? The Bronx?
No. Parkland, Sandy Hook, Columbine.
School shootings only.
“160,000 students in America have experienced the
trauma of a school shooting since Sandy Hook… 
School shootings have to stop.”
“School shootings. School shootings. School shootings.”
Laura, the most powerful artist and activist for racial equality,
the strongest Black teenager I know,
my big sister,
is crying.
She is crying, holding Christiana and Nicoleta in her arms.
They are crying too. I cannot.
“What about the Black and Brown boys and girls, students,
who are getting shot on a daily basis?
You’re scared to go to school? So am I.
But I’m also scared of walking, of selling CDs, of wearing a hoodie,
of holding skittles, of sitting in the street, of laying in my bed,
of standing in my grandmother’s backyard,
of getting out my driver’s license, of running, of awaiting trial.
Of Living While Black: a dangerous crime in America.”
Christiana closes her eyes and hides in Laura’s arms.
I have never seen Strong Dark Girl look so small.
“No one cares about gun violence until it happens to white people.”
Kim looks at me.
So does Jamie, and Laura, and Christiana, and Nicoleta.
I have no words for them.
I look to the sky and watch a loose balloon float into the distance.
I look to Kim.
“It’s human  nature. People don’t care about an issue until it
happens to them. You think Black people weren’t saying slavery
is bad? They knew it was from the beginning and have been
saying it since. It was the same thing with Jim Crow and
segregation, but we have to make enough  noise for the
white people, the oppressors, to listen.”
They look unconvinced. I look to Laura, then to Kim.
“You think Martin didn’t realize that? ‘Cause he did.
He knew the White Man didn’t care until it affected his people,
but when they finally cared… when they were finally listening,
he jumped on and rode with it. That’s what we have to do now;
jump on and ride with it,  just make sure you’re included too.”
They blink and watch. I look up to find my balloon.
“C’mere.” And with that, we melted into a huddle of six.
Kim speaks, we listen with empty ears and hopeless hearts.
They look to me. I have no words for them.
I look for the balloon… thinking.
Kim speaks and rubs our backs with comforting words
until it gets quiet.
Nicoleta cries: “Nobody cares about us.”
Another beat of quiet. I look to find my balloon,
but it isn’t there anymore. The energy has been lost.
We climbed back over the wall,
silver bullets streaming down their cheeks.
This movement is not for us.
They look to me. I have no words for them.
When the crowd clears up enough, we lock arms.
When we are far enough away, when it is quiet enough,
I look around, I see our arms, I see their tears. I speak.
“My mother has always told me it’s only okay to cry
if you cry with a purpose.
We can tear up, sob, and mourn all we want,
but it won’t change anything. We can cry,
but it must be with a plan.
They look at me, nodding.
We step in silence until the crowd is almost gone:
only scattered people are left… 
orange and white shirts are no longer seen, nor heard.
“Remember what Ben told us about all of those
empty seats in the local city committees?” They nod.
“We have to fill them with people like us —
people who look like us, who think like us, because
Kim is right. No one is looking out for us.
We have to take care of ourselves.”
I felt like a child.
Like I had been thrown even passed the deep end.
I can cry, but I must have a plan.
We split into pairs: Laura and Christiana,
Jamie and Kim, Nicoleta and I. 
Neuroscientists with degrees in political science,
Harvard Law. That was our plan.
Sadness was replaced with anger,
replaced with hate, replaced with hope,
replaced with pride — determination.
I’d be president with Nicoleta as my Secretary of State,
Laura on the board of the NAACP,
Christiana inspiring the next of us.
It’s been a long time coming,
but I know change is gonna come —
This change is here.
March 24, 2018. 2:00pm.
We told Kim we were gonna run with it,
and just like the river,
we’ve been running ever since.

written on March 30, 2018.

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