On the heels of my last post, which was on the dark and pessimistic side, I’d like to head in the opposite direction. And, by the way, I’d like to thank everyone who commented on that post. All of them were thoughtful and encouraging. Frankly, I need that!
Four years ago, my long-time good friend Greg called and asked me if I was interested in starting a blog. We were both angry and sick over the Parkland, Florida mass shooting and wanted to do something about it. Instead of complaining about how things were going in this country, it was time to put our anger into words and try to make a difference.
Since that day, it hasn’t quite worked out how Greg had intended. He could not contribute to the blog as he had planned. Life was dealing him lemon after lemon, and it wasn’t working out.
However, he’s since retired from a long career at FedEx, and he’s found another way to make his voice heard. Except this time, he’s doing it not with words but with action.
Many of you probably do not know this, but Greg is an amateur photographer. And a damn good one at that. Recently, he’s attended a few protests and documented what was going on with his camera. I’m going to share some of those photos with you, and also let Greg, in his words, describe what he experienced and why he felt the need to get involved. And perhaps even more importantly, why he’s optimistic about the future.
We can all use some optimism these days, right?
All of the photos in this post, including the featured one, are courtesy of Greg. You can access all of his photos here: Greg’s Photos
Jeff: “Greg, when you told me about your plan to go to the March for Our Lives Protest in Cleveland, I was very impressed. I’ve personally never attended something like that. I’ve always resisted for various reasons. I hope to change that, and I have you to thank! That said, what was it that motivated you to go?”
Greg: “I was feeling like you and so many others. Dejected and worried about what’s been happening. But, I had to do something. And I’m so glad I did. You feel commitment once you go. It’s like a transformation. I felt different when I left in that you feel you’ve reached the next level of commitment. In other words, it’s like you have skin in the game now. Some people think you just go there and make a lot of noise etc. But that’s not at all what it’s all about. I don’t think any of those people felt that way. I advise people to break out of their comfort zone and go to one of these rallies. And then see how you feel, not only afterward but also while there. It’s just a great feeling, Jeff. And by participating in an event like this, you may be even more apt to call your Congress person and be a pain in the ass to them.”
Jeff: “You also went to the Pro-choice rally in Cleveland a few weeks back. I’ve always said that when it comes to the abortion issue, men have to make their voices heard. They have a stake in it as well, right? How did it make you feel to be there? Because you’re a male, I’m sure you were easily in the minority there.”
Greg: “It felt great! I didn’t feel any different than the women. I mean, physically speaking, I’m not going to go through the same things they might go through. But just some of the concepts we’re talking about here. I mean, what if your daughter or, God forbid, your wife was to be raped by someone? They’re talking about no exceptions for this kind of thing. They say you have to carry the baby to term. I mean, if you have any conscience at all, you cannot go along with this if you’re a man. And there were more men there than I expected. It’s not like there were just a bunch of women in the streets. It’s not like that. Some men had signs, just like the women. Their message was real. And look, nobody likes what goes on in an abortion clinic. But nobody goes there because it’s some kind of good time. They go there because it’s what needs to be done for their particular situation.”
Jeff: “What stood out the most to you at those rallies specifically?”
Greg: “Passion. You could see it on the faces. I took pictures of the protestors’ reactions to the various speakers there. That was my main goal of the photographs – to show the passion on their faces. And that’s what you get when you go to a protest like this.”
Jeff: “How did the protestors react to you? Was it mostly positive?”
Greg: “Oh, absolutely positive. The funny thing is, when people notice a camera on you, they sometimes treat it like you’re at a summer barbecue or something like that. Most of the time, they’d ham for the camera and stuff like that. I had to separate those kinds of pictures from the ones I ultimately kept because they were, quite frankly, terrible shots. I mean, this was a Roe v Wade rally, and some of those shots did not translate into the seriousness of the issue. That’s when I decided to get my long lens out and put my back to the speaker. And the effect was that I really was able to detect how they were feeling about everything. They weren’t mugging for the camera. I got a real sense of their emotion by doing that.”
Jeff: “You got a real sense of that, Greg. You can see from the various photos how they reacted to what was being said. The emotion, whether it was a sad or concerned look or one of optimism. You were really able to capture how people were feeling.”
Greg: “Thanks, Jeff. There was one person, however, who really stood out. And I didn’t need to show her reacting to the speaker. I just focused the lens on her. She had a mask on and was carrying a pink sign. I took a series of photos of her – it’s called cropping – and not once did she ever break gaze with me. She was literally sending me a message with her stance and her sign. And it’s how I wished everyone would have been. She wasn’t mugging for the camera. When the camera isn’t on folks, it’s what you see. And she absolutely embodied that spirit.”
Jeff: “You also told me you made a connection with someone with the Democratic Party. Can you explain what that was all about?”
Greg: “Yeah, that was at the Juneteenth Celebration I went to. She was a Democratic Party member and had a clipboard and everything. She asked me if I was registered to vote. I told her that I was – and was a lifelong Democrat. She took down my information and everything and then asked me if it was ok to put down that I was a photographer. Of course, I said absolutely and would love to be able to do something for the Democratic Party with my photography if they needed me for something like that. It’s doubtful they call me, but hell, you never know!”
Jeff: “Well, I couldn’t be more proud of you, sir. In closing, can you tell me what makes you optimistic about the future? What about your experience made you feel that our future may not be as bleak as it seems to be heading?”
Greg: “Outcry, Jeff. It’s all we have left. If we don’t have that, we don’t have anything. I mean, outcry stopped the Vietnam War. Outcry gave black folks civil rights – although we’re obviously still working on that. The thing is, it changes things. We need to be in the streets. It may come to that even more. You’re not going to be changing things by sitting at home watching old Gilligan Island reruns. You need to be doing something. You feel so committed when you go to one of these things. I mean, some of these people probably might go just out of curiosity. But the reality is that most people are there because they have strong feelings. They really feel a sense of urgency. The emotion and commitment are real – especially at the Roe v Wade protest. It was right after it was overturned. It was raucous. They were mad. The looks on people’s faces were of shock and disbelief. Outright anger. Those signs that said ‘We won’t go back,’ I can assure you they were absolutely committed.”
The bottom line is this: There are many ways we, as Americans, can get involved in the political process. You don’t have to start a blog, but that’s one way. But you can also participate in protests, as Greg has begun. And he’s documenting his experience through his photography.
Indeed, you could start calling your Congress people, writing letters to them, or even becoming a precinct captain in your community.
Whatever it is you might decide to do, I’m reminded of the quote by former President Barack Obama: “Democracy is not a spectator sport!”
And, of course, there’s the easiest thing all of us can and must do: Vote. This November, not voting cannot be an option. Too much is at stake. The survival of democracy itself hangs in the balance.