Photo: Randy & Tina Shannon, Oct 2 in DC
We’re One Nation Working Together
By Tina Shannon
President, PA 4th CD Chapter
Progressive Democrats of America
October 11, 2010 – It was a real pleasure to work with labor folks and other community leaders to organize four buses to leave Beaver County for the One Nation Rally that took place on Saturday Oct. 2nd. We started planning and soliciting donations in September.
The coalition quickly grew to include the local NAACP, members from many unions, who were present at various points in time, as well as the Minority Coalition. The religious community of Beaver County was also represented.
I was surprised how quickly donations rolled in from the various union locals. Our PDA chapter made our modest contribution right away. Several union organizations, namely SEIU, USW, and Beaver-Lawrence Labor Council were very supportive. The NAACP made a contribution. Individuals pitched in too.
We hit occasional stumbling blocks as we tried to coordinate between the various organizations. How were we going to decide who rides what bus? How to deal with the T-shirts USW was buying for it’s members? How many subway passes should we buy, considering the deadline to order them came up pretty early?
As we worked through all this we could feel the momentum building. As publicity flyers went out, I started getting more phone calls. It was great to see union activists and leaders, who represent different constituencies, also come together to serve their larger community.
On the morning of the rally we had some confusion getting on the buses at the IBEW hall. Early in the morning, first thing, it was decided that the Steelworkers would have Bus #1. So naturally Steelworkers started getting on bus #1. Unfortunately Bus #2 ended up parked in front of Bus #1. There was a bit of confused milling about. Our great bus driver soon solved the problem for us by just driving around the building and parking Bus #2 behind Bus #1.
The bus ride was a joy. Some of our participants had just returned from Key West. I’m not naming names, lol. You know who you are. Let it suffice to say that they brought a party vibe back from the Keys and onto the bus. Others pitched in on the way to and back from DC to keep the vibe going while some on the bus still managed to sleep.
We were a mixed bunch. All of our PDA members were onboard since we wanted to stick together. Three or four unions were represented, along with the NAACP. Several friends of mine that I hadn’t seen in awhile were there. We even had an elected official with us. We also had about five teen-agers and young twenty-somethings onboard. Lucky me, I got a chance to talk to everyone at some point on the trip down and back.
Being a bus captain was actually pretty easy. I did get one big chance to discharge my duties though. We stopped at Breezewood. My co-captain gave instructions about when to be back and we all bopped in to get some coffee. We all got back on the bus and she started counting people. Oops, wait a minute, so and so is in the bathroom. Then somebody ducked out to grab a box lunch from the compartment under the bus. Some one else moved to the other side of the bus to get something out of the top compartment. It was like counting a bucket of worms.
Then Captain Tina had a stroke of genius. “I’ll take roll,” I said. I called the names out from our sign-in sheet. Low and behold, everyone was there. People applauded. “Who’s your bus captain?” I shouted.
“You are!” Everyone yelled. “Captain Tina!”
We arrived in Washington a little on the late side. That gave us a chance to see RFK parking lot just about filled up with buses. We were directed to the very back of the lot. We jumped off the bus to be greeted by a young person in an orange vest who had some instructions for us. Some of us hung around to use the bathroom and regroup while others took off immediately.
My group ended up being about 10 people. We started off for the subway. You didn’t really need to figure out where to go. You just joined the crowd and walked.
Getting on the subway was a little scary. The crowd was huge. I’ve never been packed so tightly on a subway platform. To add to the tension, everyone was nervously trying to stay with the group of people they had come with. When the subway car stopped and the door opened, the crowd surged with little clusters of people trying to cling together. But after that we all stood happily packed together and chatted for the five or so stops to the Mall.
Once we got off the subway we walked down the Mall and up to the Washington monument. The Monument is on a little rise. Once we reached the crest we could see all the people spread out before us. There was a steady stream of people already heading home and people still arriving. And we weren’t all that late considering the event was scheduled to last all afternoon.
The first thing we had to do was make a stop at the porta-potties. Apparently everyone else who had ridden the subway had the same idea. We had to wait about a half an hour in line. Later I was kicking myself for not walking past the first set of porta-potties to find the next set, which will always be less crowded. I witnessed a shouting match between 2 women about cutting in line. I chuckled to myself that this was not a lovey-dovey peace march but a union rally with folks who place value on standing their ground and fighting.
It was disappointing that we missed the early keynote speakers. My friend was really looking forward to hearing Ed Shultz. I wanted to know what Trumka had to say. I guess we can listen to their speeches on Youtube, but after going all that way it would’ve been nice to hear them in person. I think I’d have a better idea of the size of the rally too, if we’d gotten there earlier.
But we still had a great time. We walked up close enough to see one of the big video monitors about half way down the Reflecting Pool, which sits in front of the Lincoln Memorial where the speaker’s podium was. Some of our group opted to sit on the bank in the shade and listen to the speakers. Harry Belafonte was speaking when we sat down. His deep and age-burnished voice didn’t come across all that clearly where we were sitting so I was only able to catch bits and pieces of what he was saying. After I got home and listened to the speech on the internet, I realized his speech was inspired, inspiring and fearlessly hard-hitting.
Those of us who were feeling adventurous decided to walk all the way down to the Lincoln Memorial where the speaker’s podium was set up. The crowd grew denser down there, but we made our way through. We wanted to go into the Lincoln Memorial, to take the teen-agers with us inside to see the statue of Lincoln, but the Memorial was not open to the public.
We walked back to our group as the AFT took the stage. The NEA followed them. We sat and applauded the points they made, essentially that we need good education for all our kids. A spoken word artist made an emotional plea that we all be teachers of each other. It was good.
Next up were several speakers for Hispanic civil rights. The audience was receptive. My attention wandered as I rested. I spent a few minutes videotaping a father with his toddler. Then some people holding interesting signs walked by & I videotaped them too. Some of us walked over to get ice cream. Another of us walked over to the educational tables and brought back brochures about socialism and the need for green political action for jobs.
Next thing you know it was time for us to leave.
We trudged back to the subway, nowhere near as perky as when we arrived. We crowded onto a subway car. This time the unpleasantness with the subway was an extremely long trip. The subway car stopped 3 or 4 times, for 10 – 20 minutes at a time between each stop. The trip was merely uncomfortable though, instead of miserable, because of the people around us.
The first thing I said when I got on the subway was, “I’m starving.” A man immediately opened his backpack and offered me a granola bar. Just as we’d relax the train would lurch forward again. My friend standing beside me lost her balance and stumbled against a young woman standing behind her. “I’m sorry,” my friend said.
“Don’t worry about it,” the young woman said. “I’ve got you. We’re one nation working together, aren’t we?”
For me, if you add up that uncomfortable subway ride, the great bus ride to and from DC, and all the hard work it took to organize our 4 buses, it sums up the political situation we’re in.
First we have to try really hard to learn how to work collaboratively, then we get to enjoy our friendship for a while on the journey, but we still end up with delays and discomfort. That’s ok though, because we take care of each other and keep helping each other along the way to where we’re going.