When Does a march become a March?
When does a march become a March? Was it six months ago, when the idea for the People’s Climate March was hatched and the first hundred groups coalesced to bring it forward to the world? That was when QEW got on board as a sponsoring organization. By September 21st we were one of more than 1,500 participating organizations. We can take pride in knowing that we were an early adopter in this effort.
As the organizing moved forward, we found the opportunity to align ourselves with other faith-based groups. Your General Secretary (Shelley Tanenbaum) and I, as Clerk, spent hours each week participating in conference calls and sending email messages, coordinating between the People’s Climate March, Green Faith (the interfaith group coordinator), and the growing Friend’s contingent, which involved QEW, FCNL, QUNO, EQAT, 15th Street Meeting (NYC), and NYYM.
Friend’s organizations were working together as I had never seen before. A joint statement was discerned and approved. That statement has continued to gather approvals since it was originally distributed. We’ve posted the statement on the QEW website at http://www.quakerearthcare.org/article/facing-challenge-climate-change-shared-statement-quaker-groups.
On September 21, the day of the March, Jack Bradin was the first QEW Friend to arrive at the assembling point on 58th Street. The interfaith contingent was expected to be so large we were provided with our own staging area outside the main line-up area of the general March. Mary Gilbert assisted by volunteering as a greeter to those entering the area. Our large QEW banner marked our spot, making it easier for folks to find us. A steady stream of Friends joined us throughout the morning. The space was filled with greetings and joyful reunions and connections.
Several worship sessions were held during our time together. QEW, under Shelley’s leadership, lead an early worship session and EQAT held another later. Grace surrounded us during our quiet time sitting on the street within a sea of cacophony.
The People’s Climate March started just a few minutes after the appointed time of 11:30 am. It was nearly 2:00 pm before we actually started to move out and around the block to join the main stream at Columbus Circle. Friends moved at a varying pace that seemed to disperse us and then bring us back together along the route. We took turns holding our banner above the heads of the people.
Being part of this enormous crowd was an amazing experience. Different groups and individuals came for their own reasons, but everyone marched with the shared understanding that climate change needs to be stopped. The turnout was so successful that when the first marchers reached the end of the route, organizers realized they needed to disperse the marchers as they finished to make room for those still marching. We were encouraged to take down our sign and move out of the way so the large number of marchers behind us could complete the March.
As an epilogue to the March, a multi-faith service was held at St John the Divine and we bustled off after completing to get there on time. Reverberating refrains by Paul Winter welcomed us in the amazing space within the stones, stacked to create the soaring interior.
The service included a welcome greeting, a review, and an array of faith-based reasons for caring for this gift that we have been given as creation. Commitments of care were given and affirmed throughout the service.
Paul Winter at St. John the Divine following the March
By the time we left, many of us who had entered tired from the march were energized and ready to continue on to our respective resting spots for the evening and beyond. Activities continued on Monday and as I write this article on Tuesday morning, people are greatly anticipating the UN Climate Summit, which begins later today.
Even as these events in New York draw to a close, the March is not over. The People’s Climate March on September 21 provided a gathering point, an opportunity for many organizations to connect and begin working together. We will continue this important, collaborative effort in Lima later this year and then go on to Paris, near the end of 2015. March on!