It was MLK day, and I was blessed to spend most of it out of the political bustle on a 5K walk along a river with my pups. I don’t know how many other women felt like I did, but here we were being asked to perform a day of service yet again to honor a man. It felt better to be out alone. At the end of the day, I went to the community Martin Luther King, Jr. event, my spirit significantly buoyed by the fact that I had been able to complete the 5K (it had been 3 years since my feet had been injured, and I had only recently gotten out of a cast).
On arrival, they were considering closing the church it was so packed. They had prepared tables for about 130, and we were at least double that, so it was technically standing room only. The fire marshal was called, but in the spirit of inclusion, he let it go.
Each table had general topics for discussion. I went first to the table on “Poverty”. People were preparing bulletin boards with little post-it notes regarding their thoughts on the topic at each table. There were clearly a couple of folks at the table who had been there:
There was no room at that table.
I went over to the immigration table, and looked over some of the notes. The anxiety was palpable in spite of the rally for immigrant rights on Saturday. I had been too afraid to attend. The opportunity for arrest on this weekend was too present. That table was also full.
There was an extensive public discussion on pre-trial bail reform that everyone participated in, with a presentation by a judge and the local public defender. The presenter showed us the rise in bail over the years, and how unequally it was assigned across counties. A woman gave a very moving personal account of how she had been wrongfully accused, and bail had been set at half a million dollars (probably because she was muslim although she did not say this), and then lowered the next day to 2500. Her 4 year old daughter had had heart surgery while she was in detention, and they had struggled to pay rent, keep her job, etc. throughout the whole experience. Thankfully, she had been cleared; her daughter was with us; and she was socially integrated.
The only space left in the room was at the Gay and Lesbian Integration table. I sat down there. The header on the discussion panel had been discretely covered up, and there were no comments. It was sad. This being a historically military community (although the MLK community is by choice not militant), the legacy of homophobia seemed still present in the community.
At the end of the evening, there was a drum group that played, and I got up and started to do a tribal dance, and then we all held hands and sang “We shall Overcome”. I felt somewhat strengthened by this community that had committed to fighting injustice with nonviolence. I left with a good feeling about the banner we had decided would represent the local Quaker community:
It was actually an old Jewish line.