The organizers of this peaceful protest vigil instructed us to wear white, so I did.
I wore my beloved “Nettoyez le Monde” (Clean Up the World) T-shirt, a relic from my Peace Corps days in francophone Gabon twenty-plus years ago (about which I wrote in last week’s post, “Critical Thinking”) and white cotton pants I’d made in Mali, of about the same vintage. My wardrobe has nothing but sentimental value.
This candlelight vigil was held on Friday night, July 12th, here in San Miguel de Allende’s beautiful Parque Juarez, as well as in nearly seven hundred other locations all around the world. Created by the nonprofit organization “Lights for Liberty” (please see their website for their whole story: www.lightsforliberty.org ) and locally supported in part by Democrats Abroad SMA, this global event’s purpose was to quietly yet forcefully protest the inhumane conditions faced by refugees at the U.S.-Mexico border.
As my friend Nancy and I approached the gathering at 8:30, while the Mexican sun was sinking, we could hear guitar music and ‘60s protest songs being played and sung in the gazebo. “…The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind…” The attendees, mostly white-haired, wearing white, and holding candles, swayed to the music.
It had rained heavily earlier in the evening, which might have kept some people home. In fact, it rained even more heavily later in the night that night. But for the duration of the brief vigil, thankfully, the rainy-season rains held off.
After the music, about eight people read from the steps of the gazebo, in both Spanish and English, the testimonies of migrant children kept in the detention camps, in conditions that still exist today — separated from their parents, made to sleep on concrete floors, unable to bathe or brush their teeth, unable to comfort one another – heartbreaking, true stories that brought many in the gathering to tears.
Then, in the darkness, holding our small candles, there was a moment of silence and reflection.
As activist and organizer Kristin Mink states on the Lights for Liberty website, “Now is the time for every person to stand up and say, ‘We will not accept this!’ No more hesitating. No more denial. No more fear. We need to be bold, and loud, and unrelenting. That’s the only way we can stop this.”
One may wonder what good such demonstrations do. What long-term effect, after the bright little candles have been blown out, will they have?
Also from the website, I got this answer:
“Lights for Liberty is intended to have an impact that sustains far beyond July 12th. Our aim is for participants and sponsoring organizations to build relationships that help amplify and fund their work, and for attendees to come away with specific calls to action and the knowledge and motivation to carry them out.”
In the late ‘60s, when I was in my early twenties, I never participated in protest marches or demonstrations. My world was small then. The issues I was facing were personal and painful, so painful I could barely look up. I didn’t have a voice. I didn’t sing protest songs. I didn’t sing at all.
It takes time, decades in my own case, I’ve learned, to find one’s voice — to learn how to step out, stand up, speak up, sing out, and join others in solidarity for urgent and just causes, wearing white.