Avery is a rising sophomore working at Legal Momentum with the National Judicial Education Program, which trains judges and court personnel to ensure that victims of violence have access to an informed and impartial judicial system.
Saturday afternoon was a bit of a struggle for my friend Brooke and me, due to our getting lost in the darkness commonly known as the New York City subway system for about an hour and a half, and then narrowly managing to make it to the rally with only half an hour left. Coming from the suburbs of Denver and Tampa, we run into this problem daily in New York City. But at least we got a glimpse of the event.
It wasn’t what I thought it would be like. I’m not really sure why, but I was expecting a more radical scene. Maybe it was because I had just recently read an article about the Stonewall incident of 1969, so the imagery of that particularly event was still fresh in my mind. What I actually saw was a group of people just having fun. Brooke and I weren’t even sure if we had found the place when we first arrived. It took reading the banner above the stage that said something along the lines of “Celebrating Pride” in relatively small font to confirm it. When I really started to look around, I noticed same-sex pairs in the crowd. But other than the fact that there were more homosexual matches than you would typically see in a public area, it seemed like just another concert to me: a group of people coming together to enjoy a performance, but the performer just so happened to be singing inspiringly peaceful yet passionate lyrics.
Would this be considered activism? I guess that depends on how you define the term. I see it as any act that is done with the purpose of pushing a movement forward. In the sense of that definition, I would consider this activism. It may not have explicitly changed anything in regards to civil rights policy, but I believe it had an effect on the people that attended. Social movements are about more than changing laws; they’re about changing attitudes too. When like-minded people get together, you can feel the sense of hope and support from those around you. That’s how I felt at the rally. And I would think that someone who was gay would feel that to an even greater extent. There truly is strength in numbers.
My supervisor at Legal Momentum, Lynn Schafran, pointed this out the other week. She’s been a part of the Feminist movement longer than the rest of us in the National Judicial Education Program, and has had success over the years. Yet she knows and makes a point to share that social change takes a long time, and can be an exhausting effort to be a part of. But she says the environment at Legal Momentum gives her hope. Coming to work every morning to join a group of people that you know are on your side can make the effort worthwhile, and keep you from giving up in the long run. I see the Pride rally as a similar setting. Not everyone can work at an organization whose sole purpose of existence is to make social change. Most people work alongside people who may not necessarily agree with their beliefs. That’s why I see events like the rally as necessary to keep the movement alive. It reminds those who may have doubt that they’re not alone. Saturday’s event may not have legalized gay marriage, or changed anything concrete for that matter, but its importance should not be understated.