Even though it's halfway through 2021, I still find myself thinking about 2020. I'm sure you do too. And I've realized that, as time slithers away the way it does, I now talk – think – about it differently.
The clear, visceral memories of moments that shoved me into some new dark, uncomfortable corner of realization have given way to unsatisfactory platitudes. The painful, almost tangible reminder of an argument past is now shrouded by the lackluster I was stressed. The shivering embarrassment-relief of a cry-breakdown is now I was just tired. It's like I've started to think of 2020 the way I think of an ex – I've slowly, quietly, carefully, carelessly, talked the very realness of it into something much less. Because it's easier to give up trying to understand why something happened – and what went wrong – than to figure it out. Isn't it?
I know this is inevitable. As the sucker punch of 2020 ebbs – though, let's be honest, 2021 is not much different for most places in the world – so too will my thoughts about it. Yours too. Yet it's this inevitable numbness, this weird new stupor, that makes holding onto the things we realized we needed – for ourselves and others – ever more important.
Any revelation I had in 2020 was connected to some sort of gathering. While the isolation wrought by the pandemic certainly served as a chapel of reflection, it was during the moments around others – many others – that I came to my clearest conclusions. This is particularly true for the Black Lives Matter protests I attended; in this movement with others, I felt the deepest shame, the most profound joy, the most moving sense of purpose. Because there is no other way.
And when I say movement with others, I mean protest. There's something quite special about not just witnessing but taking part in a movement – it's a social commitment of the most intense and gentle type. It's about release. When we gather, we are angry – and we're joyous. Rage and light, both there, together, singing. When we gather, we mourn. When we gather, we're vulnerable, because we have to be. We peer backward and look forward at the same time, all while planting our feet on the concrete of now.
In journalism school, I was taught the rule that it's inappropriate for journalists to personally participate in protests or anything clearly political. I heard the same thing in every staff job I held. It's an old, stale rule. It also doesn't make sense. I'm a journalist because I've made the commitment to not only tell people's stories – but to be by their side when I do. That's the least I can do.
This coming Tuesday, July 20, is Independence Day in Colombia. It's also going to be a day of protest, as returning Paro Nacional demonstrations sweep the country. Many people are expected to come – to gather, to be vulnerable, to raise their hands despite terrible odds. And I'll be there.
In the meantime, here are some of my photos from demonstrations I've attended. May they serve as a reminder that the exposing action of raising a hand can be the most imposing power there is.
P.S. Interested in following the protests on July 20? Follow me on Twitter and Instagram for steady updates. I also recommend following the #ColombiaProtests hashtag on Twitter to see coverage from other journalists across Colombia.
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