Giving protesting a purpose

Everyone has their opinion about protesting. Some may see it as productive while others think of it as a waste of time. In my opinion, it is only a waste of time if you are doing it with the wrong intent. To be an effective protester, you must know what it is you’re protesting for.

Not too long ago, a friend and I were talking about what it means to protest. She mentioned that she gets frustrated with individuals who only protest for the purpose of posting it online for their friends to see. She said that she found herself extremely displeased with some of her friends who had gone to the Women’s March because it was trending on Twitter.

While it may seem important to millennials to let others know what they’re doing, the message behind the protest is lost when this becomes the main concern.

I remember the first march I ever participated in: I was in New York City, studying at The Kings College. One day, I looked outside of my window to find several people walking along 34th street with signs of African American men who had been killed by the police. At the time, I was also instructed by a professor to dive deeper into an issue that I was passionate about.

Since my focus was on the Black Lives Matter movement and the creators of it were from New York, I made my way downstairs in hopes of joining and speaking with those participating in the protest. I was also committed to protesting in an effort to stand up for the lives that had been lost and to seek out justice for the African American community.

In the conversation I had with the friend, she also made mention that many people use the term ‘woke’ when they are participating in the act of protesting. She said that she has lost count to how many times she has heard someone say that they are woke on an issue they know little to nothing about.

“Protesting isn’t the only thing we should do as activists,” Taylor Allen, a senior graphic design major, said. “It shouldn’t stop or begin there.”

Allen believes that there should be constant dialogue on an issue presented to the public.

“Many people think that protesting is enough when in actuality, it isn’t,” Allen said. “That’s what’s wrong with our society now.”

She said that we put on a protest and not too long thereafter, stop playing a part in the efforts of moving forward in justice. She questions where the conversation goes after.

Angelique Pickett, a senior theology major, shared similar views.

“I remember talking to a girl who had gone to the Women’s March,” Pickett said. “She couldn’t even tell me what she was standing up for.”

Pickett hopes that our world moves beyond just protesting and recognizes the roles we play as citizens in making change come to pass.

At the time that I was in New York, I had done an extensive amount of research on the Black Lives Matter movement. I hadn’t joined the movement solely because of my African American decent. I joined because of what it stood for and how it was actively pursuing justice within this particular community. At the time of the protest, I was only concerned about engaging in conversation with other activists.

I could have very well posted it on social media for all to see but because I was so fixated on having dialogue with others, this wasn’t a priority of mine. In fact, I don’t have any pictures from it. Instead, I have great knowledge of how others were feeling at that moment, which eventually turned into a story for me to add to my Black Lives Matter research.

I distinctively remember talking to a young woman in New York City who told me that she was walking to the store at the time of the protest. She said that she joined the protest shortly after witnessing the tears of a young teenage girl. She knew that she couldn’t stop her tears, but she also knew that she wasn’t as educated on the issue at hand to present any kind of solution.

Once she joined the protest, she spoke with people of the protest who handed her information about all of the lives lost to police brutality. She told me that she never felt so encouraged to walk as many miles as she did that day upon learning more about the issue.

This is the kind of attitude that we should have when it comes to protesting. We should want to engage in conversation with those who have more knowledge on a topic than us. This is how we learn and grow as activists. Protesting isn’t a waste of time if you know what it is you’re standing for and why.

“I believe protests are a beautiful, united time of mourning,” Danielle Harris, a first year college counseling and development student, said. “They are a significant step towards healing for those affected by different oppressive systems.”

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