Just when we needed some inspiration.
Remember those stories you heard as a kid about people walking a really long time for something they believed in?
In classic tales...
and Bible stories...
And history books?
It always seemed like such a romantic idea. But in real life, today, 2015, how far would you actually walk for a dream? For a vision of a better life and world?
How about 250 miles?
That's what these three phenomenal women just did.
Take a good look at this picture.
On April 13, Linda Sarsour, Carmen Perez, and Tamika Mallory left Staten Island to start a nine-day, 250-mile walk from NYC to Washington, D.C.
They were fed up with years of police brutality and injustice toward people of color all across America, especially after the non-indictment of Officer Daniel Pantaleo in the chokehold death of Eric Garner in December 2014, right in their backyard of New York City.
They had reached their limit.
The three had been activists for most of their lives but knew it was time for something out of the ordinary. They wanted to do something disruptive and epic and a little crazy.
So they decided to walk.
And they weren't alone. Nearly 100 marchers took the trek with them.
Passionate walkers of all ages and ethnicities walked side by side for 250 miles, tweeting their reasons for marching under the hashtag #whywemarch.
And while they had their personal reasons for going, together they had one clear goal:
Bringing a “Justice Package" of legislation proposals to Congress.
The package includes three proposed pieces of federal legislation:
- The End Racial Profiling Act that would do exactly what its name suggests: prohibit law enforcement from profiling based on race, nationality, ethnicity, or religion.
- The Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement Act would amend the current law that allows the Department of Defense to transfer its excess equipment (like the military-grade vehicles and weapons that were used to police peaceful civilians in the streets of Ferguson, Missouri) to federal and state law enforcement.
- The Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act would create a federal-state partnership to support prevention programs that give young people alternatives to incarceration.
They stopped in Newark, Trenton, Philadelphia, and Baltimore, and were joined by supporters in every city. They were welcomed at churches, mosques, schools, and community centers with dinners, rallies, prayer circles, and vigils.
There was music, food, poetry, press, deep conversation, and lots and lots of tears. Especially when they were joined by the parents of victims, elders of the community, and children.
By day, they walked in the hot sun and pouring rain. By night, they slept on air mattresses and rested their bruised and swollen feet.
They popped off knee braces and ankle wraps and hoped that their legs would make it just a few more days. One walker, Malik Hubbard, even injured his Achilles tendon on the trip.
But every morning, he and everyone else got up and kept walking. City by city, the same thing.
Until they got to Baltimore.
On the seventh day of the march, the group arrived in Baltimore just as horrific news was breaking: Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man who was rushed to the hospital with a severed spinal cord after being chased and tackled by officers, had died.
The local community was outraged and emotional, and intense protests ensued, right in the presence of the marchers. Then, according to marcher Alida Garcia, this happened:
"We happened to be marching through the very neighborhood of the police precinct so we marched there and met up with Freddie's family and friends. Tensions were high, young men wanted answers, simple answers to questions like 'what happened?' that have gone unanswered for over a week as he was put in a coma. People saw an officer who was on the [scene] and walked over to ask questions. Things were getting a bit impassioned and little, 5-foot-something Tamika courageously pushed her way in between the police and the protestors reminding them that we're fighting a system, not individual people and that being organized can get us the answers."
It was a painful, real-time reminder of exactly why they were marching.
So they kept going.
Now, back to that picture.
This photo was taken as Linda, Carmen, Tamika, and the rest of the marchers finally crossed the line into Washington, D.C.
That's the look of victory.
They made it to Washington just in time for a series of planned events. The final march from Howard University to Capitol Hill, a concert and a rally that included celebrities like Jussie Smollett from Fox's hit TV show "Empire," the fabulous "Grey's Anatomy" actor and activist Jesse Williams, and legendary actor Danny Glover.
Then, they went on to hand-deliver the Justice Package that they walked so far to share with members of Congress. And so ended the epic #March2Justice.
But it's really just the beginning.
Sure, the marchers will all go back home and continue their work. The news cameras will disappear and the hashtag will die a quiet, peaceful death like all other fleeting, trending topics.
But imagine just how many people were inspired by seeing a new generation of marchers take a stand for what they believe. Or how many little girls will grow up to be powerful leaders because they saw three humble young women turn the vision and a dream of a march — that no one thought they could pull off — into reality, all in the name of justice?
Maybe one day, theirs will be the long-walk story that is told alongside the fairy tales and Bible stories and history lessons.
To support their work, don't just share this post. (Although you should totally do that too. They walked 250 miles. We can at least spread the word about what they did, right?) You can also donate to the NY Justice League for their ongoing activities. And make sure to check out their Instagram account for more breathtaking photos of the nine-day march.