I stand with you

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At the tail end of the People’s Climate March in NYC somewhere around 37th St. and 11th Ave. there was an auto repair lot made sacred by art and ritual, where weary marchers could enter to feel the strength of the nearly 400,000 people who walked together that day.

The entrance was made between two sky-reaching cardboard cut-outs of a woman gazing upward with rivers flowing down from her core. Inside the space, each person was invited to write on a ribbon an answer to the question, “What is worth protecting?” or stated another way, “What do you fear losing [if environmental degradation continues]?

There were thousands of ribbons tied to lines strung between the “trees of life” by the time we arrived.  I wrote on my ribbon, “life, breath, the community that grows from a place to garden together”.  Will wrote, “the soil.”  We tied the ribbons on the line and we were invited to take a ribbon off and tie it to our own wrists.  The ribbon of a stranger with the words of what they cherish most on this earth would remind us that we are not in this struggle alone.  Some read the words on the ribbon they would tie on their wrist out loud: “The rhythm of four seasons. Jacob Rodriguez of Massachusetts…I stand with you.” After each ribbon was read, the refrain resounded, “I stand with you.”

“Standing with” is the phrase and the feeling that has stayed with me since the People’s Climate March a few weeks ago.

I thought about that phrase – “standing with” – this past weekend as members of Community Voices Heard (CVH), an organization of low-income people working to improve NY communities, gathered at White Plains Presbyterian Church.  CVH invited county legislators to come and stand with community members as they testified to proposed legislative action that would address poverty in Westchester.  (More on that event soon).

I’m thinking about that phrase – “standing with” – as I look forward to a call later this week during which  participants in the Presbyterian Defense Initiative will discuss the new sanctuary movement and hear about the witness of congregations who have opened their doors to provide sanctuary for undocumented individuals and families living in the U.S.

CVHPCC

Community Voices Heard at the People’s Climate March

“Standing with,” implies not just agreement but also proximity.  Its our proximity to one another – actually being physically present to each other – that inspires the greatest change.  

At the Climate March, labor unions and workers, immigrant-led groups, concerned families organized by region, anti-fracking activists, politicians (we need more on board!), artists, octogenarians, toddlers,  indigenous leaders, people of every race and creed stood with each other and walked together.   From within the march, the closeness of a multitude of voices gave strength and a new breadth to the local action we all carry on at home.  For anyone witnessing the march, hundreds of thousands of people standing with one another looks like (and is!) a force to be reckoned with, a network of alliances that can change everything.

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