Resistance Summer: Standing firm in tending the garden of equality
By Levi Perrin,
Two years ago the country stood awaiting the Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges granting same-sex marriage equality. I remember seeing the faces plastered across social media – men and women anxiously waiting to hear if they would be awarded a slice of equality that heterosexual Americans already enjoyed.
A lot of the faces were older. For many, the hope in their eyes was betrayed by the disappointment hiding between wrinkled brows. Many of them grew up in another time. They remember the onset of the AIDS epidemic and the lack of response from the Reagan administration.
Some remember Stonewall and might have even been there on that night. Others recall sitting in front of the television as the lynching of Matthew Shepard unfolded. And still others may know victims who suffered the same fate but were ultimately rendered anonymous.
I missed those moments because of the time the universe placed me here. Born in the early 1990’s, to a close knit, South Carolina family, those pains were hidden from me. I didn’t experience setbacks or challenges related to the movement for LBGTQ rights.
It seemed the world curated for me was equal. Or at least I’ve always believed that it should and will be one day. So, when the Supreme Court decision was issued on June 16, 2015, I wasn’t surprised. I expected it.
I lived in an integrated neighborhood and attended integrated schools. The first presidential vote that I ever cast was for a Black man. Progress appeared to be a steady stream. Of course we should be able to marry, too! Who would possibly disagree?
My vision of easy progress was trashed the very next day, when a white supremacist terrorist massacred nine innocent people as they gathered for Bible study. It happened in the state that my family has called home since we were trafficked to the United States generations ago as slaves.
Of course, like many Black children, I received “the talk.” Be respectful. Do what officers tell you. Speak the part. Every lesson was to be a brick in the wall of security. But, when you can’t be safe in church, where is there refuge?
Almost a year to the day later our world was rocked again. June 12, 2016 — four days before we could celebrate a year of marriage equality — we instead mourned the 49 people snatched away at Pulse Night Club.
Twitter user @fuzzlaw posted what many older activists felt:
“…kids, y’all 35 and under, this wasn’t supposed to happen to you…We won. We won the right to marry, to have our employment rights protected, to live as fellow citizens. Fights remain, of course. But we were winning. Then Pulse. 50 dead…Babies. Kids. The ones we fought so hard to protect from backlash. The backlash that we knew all too well, but that the post Matthew Shepard generation has never known.”
As I sat at the intersection of Black and queer mentally processing Pulse, the anniversary of the Charleston 9 and what seemed to be unending murder of unarmed Black and brown people by police, all I could see was this massive dam, cutting off the flow of progress.
And the dam rose even higher on November 8, 2016 when Donald Trump became president.
Progress feels good. It gets into your bones and makes your footsteps lighter. It’s so easy to be encapsulated by the feeling that you don’t take in the fragility of it all.
Now, at the beginning of what the Democratic National Committee’s has dubbed ‘Resistance Summer,’ two things occupy my mind: first, how to fight and, secondly, how to sustain.
Can our very existence be protest? Is the audacity to survive resistance? When they want you to believe otherwise are your very dreams battle cries?
I say yes.
Resistance cannot have an end. It’s a shared movement that we’ve picked up and must one day pass to the next runner in the race. This summer let’s double down on our commitment, stand firm in our demands and refuse to be silenced – even when the wins seem few and far between.
Deep down inside, I’m still that child who believes that eventually equality will win. But now I know that equity is not a hand-crafted bouquet; it’s a garden that must be watched, tended and protected; even when the flowers are in bloom.