Wednesday, January 20, 2010

MLK Day 2010

On Monday, we had a table at the MLK Day celebration at Huston-Tillotson University following the march from UT and the Capitol. It was a great day! The march drew thousands -- one of the largest turn-outs I've seen over the years. Weather was good, and I think that the Haiti disaster may have drawn people, also, to express the solidarity and humanity that King stood for.

I marched with CodePink colleagues with our banner from UT to the Capitol and then scooted over to H-T to set up our NOY table before the marchers arrived.

Thanks to Tura, Bobby and Craig for being there at the table (photo above -- taken toward the end of the time we were there, when most of the crowd had migrated to the music stage). Lots of people stopped at the table, from young children to teenagers to older adults. The peace wheel was popular. There was one group of quite young children who came by twice because, as their accompanying adult told us, "of all the booths, this was their favorite." Those kids knew the most about the peacemakers on the wheel -- even about Gandhi and the salt march. I learned that they attend Primavera Montessori School, which stresses peace history. That's good news!
I always hope that the peace wheel and the info sheet on historical and current peacemakers encourages some further enquiry by the kids into what peacemaking actually entails and how many ways there are to do it. Lack of teaching about this is always pretty apparent. One young person, when the wheel stopped at MLK, said, "Um, he was the first Black man in America?" This is on MLK Day, no less! Another teenager, when asked what MLK did, couldn't come up with anything, even after suggestions like, "What kinds of methods did the Civil Rights movement use?" and "How about what Rosa Parks did..."

One woman who came by looked at our materials and nodded her head, saying that her husband is a disabled vet and that they've had to fight for his benefits. Another woman who looked at our materials shook her head, no, saying "war is bad, but we need it sometimes." She said she grew up in Biafra. Before the marchers arrived, I talked for a bit with one of the women who was volunteering at the Planned Parenthood table next to ours. She said she was a 5-year Air Force veteran and that she was curious about our message. We talked about it, and she was supportive, although she said her experience in the Air Force was generally positive and that thankfully, she had not experienced sexual abuse herself. She was in the psychiatry field. One teenager who came by with her mom nodded at the "Ten Excellent Reasons to Not Join the Military" book and flier and said that she had dissuaded one of her sisters from joining even though they were from a military family. A group of students from McNeil High School in Round Rock came by and expressed interest in setting up a talk there with us.

The music was loud from the stage, which did make it hard to talk very long with those who came by the table, but it was a festive atmosphere with many community groups and vendors.

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