Thursday, October 17, 2019
In this issueSound Off

Becoming an activist, again

“You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one, I hope some day you’ll join us, and the world will be as one.”

My inner activist, long dormant, has been revitalized by the young activists protesting gun violence. They are leading me out of my comfort zone, reminding me that I, too, was once a young protester.

Born and reared in Detroit, Michigan, I learned about activism from my mother. She was a passionate activist for civil rights and taught her children well.

I had just turned nine in April of 1968, when I attended my first march. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., had been assassinated, and a peace march was being held to honor him. Determined to participate, Mom gathered me, my two younger siblings, and her best friend’s three children (each under 8 years old), and we headed out.

As we marched, with our signs and chants and singing, the police arrived. Their plan was to arrest all the marchers and put us in jail. My mother corralled the six of us into the bus bound for jail. Then, a police officer saw her—and the six kids who obviously weren’t all hers—and told her she was free to go.

My mother looked the officer straight in the face and insisted that all of us be taken to jail with the other peace marchers. We went to jail. Soon, my father came to get us out and take us home.

Mom told us the experience was something we’d remember all our lives. She told us, “Sometimes, when you do what you truly believe is right, you have to pay the consequences.” She was proud that we had been brave and none of us had cried at the thought of going to jail.

Flash forward to this past Saturday and the March for Our Lives at Dowdy Park. I felt the passion in Arabella Saunders, Watson Harvey, and the other speakers. I felt the passion of all the activists—young and old—who marched that day. And as I held my sign high above my head, I could feel my mother’s spirit in me. I knew she would have been right next to me if she were still alive. I marched for her. I marched for my children, my grandchildren, and their children.

I don’t know what will solve the problem of gun violence in our country. What I do know is our kids don’t feel safe in school.

What kind of society lets that happen to its children or verbally assaults them for wanting to survive? Isn’t survival the prime argument for gun ownership?

I believe we all want the same thing—a safe secure environment for all. But I don’t think we can reach a good compromise from the ideological extremes of either the left or the right. We have to start somewhere in the middle—in a place where both sides can come together, share ideas, and respect one another’s different opinions.

I am so very proud to follow our brave, young activists. I am, after all, my mother’s daughter—a dreamer, a believer, an activist—and I’m finally stepping out of my comfort zone again.

I am Julie Sawyer, and I march for my beliefs no matter the consequences. And I believe with all my heart that somewhere, my mother, my first hero, is smiling and applauding us all.

A resident of Kill Devil Hills, Julie Sawyer spends her time hanging out with her husband and dog. She is a former Lunch Lady and has worked in children’s theater. She loves her grandchildren and hopes to help make this world a safer place for them.