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.

Why?

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.

Moricz was banned from speaking up about LGBTQ topics. He found a brilliant workaround.

Senior class president Zander Moricz was given a fair warning: If he used his graduation speech to criticize the “Don’t Say Gay” law, then his microphone would be shut off immediately.

Moricz had been receiving a lot of attention for his LGBTQ activism prior to the ceremony. Moricz, an openly gay student at Pine View School for the Gifted in Florida, also organized student walkouts in protest and is the youngest public plaintiff in the state suing over the law formally known as the Parental Rights in Education law, which prohibits the discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity in grades K-3.

Though well beyond third grade, Moricz nevertheless was also banned from speaking up about the law, gender or sexuality. The 18-year-old tweeted, “I am the first openly-gay Class President in my school’s history–this censorship seems to show that they want me to be the last.”

However, during his speech, Moricz still delivered a powerful message about identity. Even if he did have to use a clever metaphor to do it.

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Photo by Heather Mount on Unsplash

Actions speak far louder than words.

It never fails. After a tragic mass shooting, social media is filled with posts offering thoughts and prayers. Politicians give long-winded speeches on the chamber floor or at press conferences asking Americans to do the thing they’ve been repeatedly trained to do after tragedy: offer heartfelt thoughts and prayers. When no real solution or plan of action is put forth to stop these senseless incidents from occurring so frequently in a country that considers itself a world leader, one has to wonder when we will be honest with ourselves about that very intangible automatic phrase.

Comedian Anthony Jeselnik brilliantly summed up what "thoughts and prayers" truly mean. In a 1.5-minute clip, Jeselnik talks about victims' priorities being that of survival and not wondering if they’re trending at that moment. The crowd laughs as he mimics the actions of well-meaning social media users offering thoughts and prayers after another mass shooting. He goes on to explain how the act of performatively offering thoughts and prayers to victims and their families really pulls the focus onto the author of the social media post and away from the event. In the short clip he expertly expresses how being performative on social media doesn’t typically equate to action that will help victims or enact long-term change.

Of course, this isn’t to say that thoughts and prayers aren’t welcomed or shouldn’t be shared. According to Rabbi Jack Moline "prayer without action is just noise." In a world where mass shootings are so common that a video clip from 2015 is still relevant, it's clear that more than thoughts and prayers are needed. It's important to examine what you’re doing outside of offering thoughts and prayers on social media. In another several years, hopefully this video clip won’t be as relevant, but at this rate it’s hard to see it any differently.

Joy

50-years ago they trade a grilled cheese for a painting. Now it's worth a small fortune.

Irene and Tony Demas regularly traded food at their restaurant in exchange for crafts. It paid off big time.

Photo by Gio Bartlett on Unsplash

Painting traded for grilled cheese worth thousands.

The grilled cheese at Irene and Tony Demas’ restaurant was truly something special. The combination of freshly baked artisan bread and 5-year-old cheddar was enough to make anyone’s mouth water, but no one was nearly as devoted to the item as the restaurant’s regular, John Kinnear.

Kinnear loved the London, Ontario restaurant's grilled cheese so much that he ordered it every single day, though he wouldn’t always pay for it in cash. The Demases were well known for bartering their food in exchange for odds and ends from local craftspeople and merchants.

“Everyone supported everyone back then,” Irene told the Guardian, saying that the couple would often trade free soup and a sandwich for fresh flowers. Two different kinds of nourishment, you might say.

And so, in the 1970s the Demases made a deal with Kinnear that he could pay them for his grilled cheese sandwiches with artwork. Being a painter himself and part of an art community, Kinnear would never run out of that currency.

Little did Kinnear—or anyone—know, eventually he would give the Demases a painting worth an entire lifetime's supply of grilled cheeses. And then some.

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