I have never been a great chanter. I blame it on my inherent lack of rhythm as a white person; screaming slogans while rhythmically hoisting poster board has never been my strong suit, not even in my hippy college days.
Going to my first pro-choice rally in Chicago this Saturday, I was naturally nervous that my awkward inability to chant, “Ho! Ho! Hey! Hey! Women’s rights are here to stay!” would expose me as the novice marcher that I am. I practiced some traditional slogans the night before. “Hey! Hey! Mister! Mister! Get your laws off my sister!” I repeated into the mirror until I had sufficiently mastered the elegant prose.
On rally day, I downed a pot a coffee and headed for Daley plaza ready to impress the masses with my in-sync vocals. As I blended into the hundreds of pro-choice demonstrators and prepared to shout, I realized the majority of marchers surrounding me were young people, like me, and many of them were quiet.
I admit I was expecting a showing of middle-aged feminists with flowers braided into their hair shouting slogans about their vaginas. But the crowd that surrounded me was in their 20’s with bright orange t-shirts thrown over their Northface jackets. Some had banners and were shouting slogans but many were just holding signs and occasionally waving at beeping cars that passed.
As we began to walk through downtown Chicago, I found myself not chanting but waving to encouraging drivers and downtown tourists. My fellow marchers were Planned Parenthood employees, students from the suburbs, a feminist from Iowa and a family who wanted to show their kids what civic engagement looks like.
The crowd was young and diverse. As one passerby noted, “There are a lot of dudes here.” There were also children, a few dogs and one distinctly colored 5-inch mohawk. And although some came prepared with whistles, signs and impressive lung capacity, others just seemed to show up.
I realized marching that this isn’t the 70’s and social progress isn’t about the strength of your chants. From Egypt to Daley plaza in 2011 it is just about showing up. Young people especially are filling the proverbial and physical squares around the world, and whether or not they are chanting something, they are all saying we have something to say.
There are a number of ominous budgets cuts headed to Congress right now. Everything from Planned Parenthood to PBS to Americorps is being threatened. You don’t need to practice slogans from the 70’s to support these causes. It is 2011, folks. Update your Facebook status, tweet it, blog it, sign an on-line letter campaign, text a donation, or just show up. As for me, I’m going to blog my support of for Planned Parenthood and save the chants for when they are really necessary, like the next Justin Bieber concert: “Bieber Fever! Bieber Fever”