I have been in my share of parades. Not riding a float, mind you. I was marching, and most of the time I was lugging thirty pounds of sousaphone on my left shoulder during most of them. This past week has afforded me the opportunity to walk down the streets of Oakland, without a sousaphone, but carrying my strike sign. Happily there was a band marching along with us and an assortment of percussion to keep the beat as we went about the business of making our voice heard.
Along with the very helpful and capable assistance of our police department and our mass transit company, we made our way downtown one day. There we stopped and created a racket outside the offices where negotiations were taking place. We wanted our bargaining team to hear our voices. United. Another day, we traced the path from one of Oakland's recently closed schools to the campus where most of the students had been re-enrolled. All along the two mile route, shopkeepers came out to take a photo, or cheer us on. From the balconies of apartment buildings, kids who might otherwise have been in school waved down to us as we made our way through the neighborhood.
One of our chants went like this: Show me what democracy looks like! "This is what democracy looks like!" In my head, these were the words I inserted? Show me what Oakland looks like! "This is what Oakland looks like!" The storefronts. The front porches. The side streets. The main drags. The smiles. The glares. Old. Young. A rainbow walking through the rain.
Because I am cynical at times to a fault, I had to keep reminding myself that I truly do believe in what we are doing. I haven't been at this teaching thing for as long as I have without sipping a little of that social justice Kool-Aid. And it makes my head swim to think about the negotiations I made with parents to keep their kids from going into the school that has been my home away from home for all these years. I truly believe that when we all go back inside together it will be to make a better, safer, happier place for everyone.
I found myself marching in step with the drums around me. The rhythm kept me moving. I don't want to stop. Not now. The parade isn't finished. Not yet.