COMMUNITY VOICES | Ryan Williams-Virden – A Salute to the Community


There were so many beautiful people at the Hoodies Up MN march, so much beautiful energy, and it was truly inspiring. I am honored to have been present.

To be honest I didn’t expect to feel like this. I was one of those people who thought protests and demonstrations had run their course. I felt like they offered a space for people to vent but were actually counterproductive because people left with no concrete plan to actually affect the balance of power.

After the Hoodies Up MN rally, I feel differently.

I realized why demonstrations are a crucial part of community building. Thousands of people, who knew each other to various degrees, saw how many people feel like them. This in and of itself, I realize, is a good reason for publicly gathering. Beyond that, who knows how many people were dining, working, and traveling through downtown at that time and saw the thousands of people making their voices heard? Maybe those people had felt isolated beforehand and are now empowered to join the community. Maybe they had never heard of Terrance Franklin and will now research that case and join the struggle for justice. Who knows how many conversations will happen due to this demonstration?

This can only be a good thing.

That being said, I know the real work, the hardest work, is what happens tomorrow. It is one thing to show up for a demonstration. It is quite another to do the work in your everyday life to struggle for justice. It is hard, after a full day of work, to make it to the meeting. It is hard to commit to learning something new, to having a conversation with someone about race, gender and class. But, these are the things we must do.

And when we get tired we need to remember how we felt that night. We need to remember the crowds of people who energized us tonight. We need to trust they are out doing the hard work as well. The protest was a good step for plugging folks into organizations dedicated to doing that hard work; folks walked away feeling like they had a place to direct their energy. Again, only a good thing.

It is only by plugging in that we will start to change the power dynamics. When we commit to doing the daily work we will see racial justice, economic justice and all the other issues important to us on the agenda. When we support each other in these endeavors we will build a community capable of policing, educating, housing, feeding and caring for itself. We will be healthy, happy and powerful. We will never again need to demonstrate. Our lives will be the demonstration. That is a future worth struggling for.

All Power to the People.