So there we were, T and I, walking up Maple Street headed to the Rally against White Supremacy. I was in Oxford, Ohio, the campus of Miami University, my alma mater. Dare I count the years? B.A. in English, graduated 1972. Could it really be 45 years?
Two young women crossed the sidewalk in front of us. One of them paused, then turned to me excitedly, “Is that an Obama t-shirt?” “Yes, Obama ’08. I’m old enough to have been there.” I was pleasantly surprised—amazed even—at the wholesome young student’s excitement. And at that moment I felt a strong intuition: I needed to write and blog about this.
My activist date and I continued walking until we found the Sun Dial, the rally’s meeting point.
There were a few hundred people, mostly students but some boomers like us. I’d found out about the rally from Facebook Events and also knew De’Vante, the co-organizer. We had met at the opening of one of Hillary Clinton’s campaign offices. He had confidently proclaimed from the stage: his goal was to be the first black—and gay—President. I admired his ambition.
A young woman asked if I would answer some questions about why I was here. Sure. She was working on a capstone project. I assume she selected me because I was a gray haired one. I told her I grew up in Hamilton, several miles east. Remembered my first knowledge of racism: African Americans lived on the east side, my white family on the west. My babysitter was a Cohen; I was shocked to discover some people disliked Jewish people, too. I knew early on that something was seriously wrong with Society; I realized what I learned in school was partly lies. My sister married a black guy and I came out lesbian. Our poor mother! At some point years later I told her she’d done something right—taught us to think for ourselves.
The speakers were outstanding. I wish I’d had a program so I knew who they were and what organizations they were associated with. One was an African American female reverend running for Cincinnati City Council. She was one of the most powerful. I appreciated her contrasting her decades earlier time at Miami with how things were now: racism still, unfortunately, but in 2017 people were standing up to it publicly. Even so, some Civil Rights Freedom Riders are memorialized at the former Western College side of campus. In 1964 hundreds of volunteers — many of them white college students — trained in Oxford before heading south to register black voters and set up freedom schools and community centers.
Three civil rights activists — Michael Schwerner, James Chaney, and Andrew Goodman — were murdered in Mississippi soon after leaving Oxford. Their deaths stunned the nation and sparked a major federal investigation. It was code-named “MIBURN” for Mississippi Burning after their charred station wagon was found.
All these memories swirled through my head. It wasn’t until a speaker asked that we hold hands with one next to us that I totally returned to the present. It was the first time I’d held hands with my activist date. Then the March began.
I definitely got my 10,000 steps for the day though my broken Fitbit wasn’t on my wrist. I tried to keep track of what direction we were going so we could find our way back to the car.
T & I are both in our 60’s. Although we are both fairly active, her right knee was hurting and my left hip started acting up. After the halfway mark, we did have the sense to move to the edge of the marching crowd. It was hard to keep up with those younger marchers with long legs!
Near the end, we separated from the marchers when they turned from the street toward the rally area. As we walked across the green space a young woman asked us what the march was about. Evidently, all they could make out was KKK. We reassured her that the march was against the KKK. The chant went “No KKK, no Fascist USA, no Trump!”
We were pleasantly tired as we drove back to Cincinnati. Glad we had made a stand—and contribution to the cause—as elders now.
*** Thanks to Laurel for the writing prompt!