The Guilfordian

Organizer reflects on Greensboro’s March

Alex Forsyth
Eight organizers of Greensboro’s March For Our Lives pose for a photo in Greensboro’s Governmental Plaza.//Photo courtesy of Alex Forsyth

Umbrellas.

The morning of March 24 is still a blur, but I vividly remember standing on the steps of Governmental Plaza in downtown Greensboro, staring out at the sea of umbrellas. There were so many of them, with people in brightly colored rain jackets huddled underneath.

Like many of the student organizers of Greensboro’s March for Our Lives, I had experienced a sort of nervous excitement prior to the march. Nervous about carrying out the march smoothly, excited at the potential for impact.

Dominic Patafie, a fellow organizer of the march, began speaking on the steps at around 2 p.m. The rest of the organizers stood around him, in awe of the crowd that had gathered in the Plaza.

Patafie thanked the crowd for their presence, emphasizing that their attendance was what really made the march possible. Someone from the crowd shouted, “No, thank you!” After that, the crowd chanted together. “Thank you. We love you.”

Standing on the steps in front that crowd, I got chills. And they weren’t from the rain. It was an indescribable feeling, to know that the work we did to host the march was acknowledged.

But this wasn’t the goal. To the team, whether we were appreciated or not didn’t matter. It was about the impact. It was about empowering attendees, registering teens to vote in local and midterm elections and mobilizing support for common sense gun laws.

These aren’t first time efforts. There have been many other protests and movements, such as the Ferguson organizers that have worked to address gun violence.

We invited Swing Left, a grassroots organization that was begun after President Donald Trump was elected, to register teens to vote at the march. We secured student activists to speak about the issue of gun violence. We filled out blank checks with “thoughts and prayers” written on them to send a message to local legislators.

It was things like these that contributed to that mark we made, but the march was just the start of our impact.

But it is this impact that many people questioned and threatened. At our events prior to the march, we encountered pro-gun citizens who directed derogatory insults toward us. There wasn’t a shortage of aggressive comments, including death threats, through social media. But this didn’t dampen our enthusiasm.

With teens like Emma Gonzalez, Cameron Kasky and David Hogg bravely taking initiative after the shooting at their school, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in Parkland, Florida, there was no hesitation when it came to deciding and continuing to help organize Greensboro’s march. It was an immediate, unwavering “Yes.”

If working with the March for Our Lives team has taught me anything at all, it is that with true passion and dedication, youth have so much capacity to create change.

I can now say I have filled out an insurance application, written press releases and spoken to youth at leadership events, things I never expected to do at the age of 17. The rest of the team worked tirelessly as well, securing speakers and performers, hosting pre-march events, coordinating with officials for the city and the list goes on.

This process of organizing showed us our own capacity. For me, it was a capacity I didn’t feel I had.

But even after all of these distinct, beautiful moments and revelations, my mind and heart always race back to standing on the stairs of the Plaza. Protest posters held underneath umbrellas. People shouting “Thank you. We love you.” Shivering arms linked together.

Because that was when I knew. We had done something, sparked a fire.

My only hope from here on out is that the march was simply the start of something, not the climax or the resolution. I hope people will continue to resist, to fight and to empower, rain or shine.

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