My Zion: Reflections on Denver’s MLK Day Marade 2017

I’m standing in the midst of thousands of people at Denver’s MLK Day Marade (March/Parade), which is known as the largest MLK Day gathering of any in the U.S., and we are in the middle of an intersection in front of the looming State Capitol, and we are chanting, “I believe (clap, clap, clap)… we will win (clap, clap, clap)!” Over and over and over again. Faster and faster. The band is playing, drums are beating, and we are dancing. Dancing! Dancing in the streets!

No, we are not talking about winning the election, for it is too late for that, but rather the idea that we all can and will continue to celebrate our common humanity together, side by side.

It is a celebration of community, and we have taken to the streets. The crowd includes people of all races, ethnicities, sexualities, spiritualities… If you have ever seen the dancing scene at Zion in the second Matrix movie, you will get a feel for what I was experiencing – the only difference was that we all had many, many clothes on due to the freezing-cold temperatures!

What stood out to me the most was that on this day, everyone is smiling. Through the pain of loss of the lives of too many people of color, through the anguish of political loss, through the excruciating realization of how far we haven’t yet come, through the fear of what is yet to come, everyone somehow finds a way to stay engaged, connected, and willing to keep on going. This, this is my Zion.

As we marched several miles from the statue of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in City Park down Colfax Avenue to the Capitol, I could feel the ghosts of those who had marched before me down that same street, year after year. I can recall seeing footage from the 1960’s that showed people of color mostly, singing the same exact songs we were singing today. Chanting the same chants. Holding the same signs. Only this time, there are many more white folks in the mix. And the sign in front of me (see photo) says, “No Enemies.”

No enemies. Our enemies can’t be people; our enemies must be ideas: the very real notion of white supremacy/white privilege/white superiority. That idea is my enemy; my nemesis; what I am willing to stand in the street to fight against, to challenge every chance I get. To walk side by side with all others on this path. In community.

We have a job ahead of us. No, we have not yet reached the Promised Land. But what gives me hope is this:

5 little girls of color were leaning out a second story window today smiling and waving to the crowd as we marched by. There was not a single marcher who passed them that didn’t look up, wave, smile, and almost giggle from the cuteness of it. Those are the moments I will choose to remember from this year’s Marade.

With the upcoming national Women’s March, and the inauguration of yet another president who lost the popular vote and will serve anyway, who knows what will come after that. Right now, I just want to take in the day – the smiles especially. And most of all, the hope!

 

 

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