Watch Mayor Adam O'Neal on The Big Picture with Thom Hartmann, June 15, 2015 the day The Walk arrived in Washington DC. Fore more, please go to primary website for The Walk 2015: TheWalkDCtoNC.com.
June 1, 2015 | Day 1
by Devon Geary
Twenty-three miles—walking along rural roads, beside fields of gold, barking dogs, old oaks interlacing in the distance. The soreness and ache in my legs renders standing an incredible inconvenience. But the beauty of this place, and the commitment and compassion of these people will rejuvenate our energy for the next fourteen days.
We were greeted in Belhaven this morning by press, and community bearing signs—“save the 283”,“ 283 miles for 283 rural hospitals” and well-wishes for our group. Many Belhaven residents approached us individually to ask our state and voice their appreciation for our effort. One commission member revealed that a 6 million dollar loan is currently available to reopen the hospital. His fellow commissioners are blocking the effort, yet led a failed attempt to vote for the building of a new prison.
Money controls like a puppeteer.
I walked with a husband and wife from Belhaven, likely in their seventies, who had been arrested with others a few months back for “trespassing and loud singing” in the municipal building. On the day of their “offense,” they spent three hours in the basement with their arms tied behind their backs.
Outside the city limits, the fifteen walkers started off, led by Zellner and Oneal.
Nine hours together. The endorphins and eventual physical strain united our diverse group. With vastly different backgrounds, all charismatic and caring—laughter, intensity, peacefulness, encouragement rippled down the line of walkers as topics ranged from politics, NGOs and capitalism to family, magic tricks and future dreams.
My brain and body are fried, but a couple of mental notes:
Mayor Oneal explained: a photograph revealing the nation’s dirty laundry worries politicians little because it’s often exposed to the public briefly. Video coverage of an issue that reappears on the news for two weeks—drawing national attention—causes a ruckus at the capital.
I walked with New York today, an NYU student organizing nationally and internationally—he leaves for South Africa on the 15th and will step onto his NYU campus before the semester begins in order to organize freshman around the issue of student debt. NYU shared the story of a man attempting to organize individuals in a homeless shelter in Detroit. The shelter residents would not listen to his ideas aimed at enacting reform to better their living standards. Finally, the man asked the individuals sleeping in the shelter what problem needed to be addressed. They responded that they were rationed toilet paper; not provided what they needed, their dignity was stripped daily; this injustice demeaned them, degrading their humanity. The organizer listened. He created a movement to demand and eventually effectively campaign for toilet paper. By listening to the people instead of assuming an understanding of their plight, beneficial change was effected—and new issues, chosen by this community, could be tackled with newly established trust.
To increase movement participation, use an escalating tactic: for example, start by asking an individual to attend a letter delivery (“Hey, today a group of us are delivering this letter to this congressman. It will make a powerful statement, do you have ten minutes?”). Next, increase the intensity (“The congressman did not meet our requests; he didn’t even acknowledge his receipt of the letter. Will you join us together to rally on the square?”). This technique strengthens the connection with participants by increasing their connection with the cause. Dipping their toes in the pool of social action expands their consciousness and activity.
The primary website for The Walk 2015 is TheWalkDCtoNC.com.