The Great Climate March

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Danny Lyon greets Climate Marchers to Albuquerque.

The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee was a less than exciting name also. No one could say it. No one could remember it. But the SNCC has gone down in history as one of our great moments, and one of the great grass routes organizing groups in history.    So when the Great Climate Marchers (march@climatemarch.org) arrived in Albuquerque I suggested they change their name. “To what?” someone asked. “To anything else” I answered. I also suggested they not all where the same T-shirt . I bought one for my grandchildren. They can use it to stuff into the cracks of their cave to keep out the poisonous air they will have when huge fires are burning or the oil tanker cars explode by the Chicago River.

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I liked hugging the girls. They needed baths. They needed sleep. A few walked barefoot, which would not be remarkable other than the fact that they had walked to Albuquerque from the Port of Los Angeles, a distance of 810 miles, where 1,500 people had rallied to send them off. Even undocumented workers, who walk a lot, don’t walk this far. So I invited Ed Fallon, the organizer, to my house and we talked. He is a follower of Gandhi who famously walked to the sea.

And I recalled William Moore, the Post Man who walked, actually who tried to walk, from Baltimore into the Deep South, with a single sign on his chest reading “Black and White Together”. In May of 1963, my soon to be best friend Sam Shirah of Troy Alabama took up that march, along with nine other SNCC and CORE workers, because William Moore was unable to walk any more. He was dead.

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When I received the Missouri Honor Medal in Journalism, an award once given to Winston Churchill, and Walter Cronkite, my brief acceptance remarks were entitled “Blood in the Streets.” Because the ceremony was recorded by the University of Missouri, and sent to me on a disk, I posted this speech on my website www.bleakbeauty.com. I was talking about the lethargy that grips or country

as it hurtles down into the butt hole of history. I was talking about our being so happy playing with our IPhones that we have neglected to engage with reality. I was talking about Occupy, which had just been formed.

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And what I said was that I had heard that demonstrations had started, and I was urging the students to join them, and then I said “I hope there is blood in the streets”. Then I added, “You’re not supposed to say that” which is true. Now here come these lonely souls, walking across the entire lower forty eight states, from the Pacific Ocean, to here in Albuquerque, across Key Stone Pipe Line route in Nebraska, to Chicago, where they will stay with my activist daughter Gabrielle Lyon, then all the way to Washington DC where they hope to arrive in November. They expect to reach York Nebraska July 19th.

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The thing about William Moore is he was murdered. And the ten SNCC and CORE kids who took up his march were met with an army of Alabama State Troopers when they entered that woe be gone portion of our country and they were put into the Alabama Penitentiary. Recently I was asked to speak to attorneys of the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department in Washington. (There are 600 such attorneys). These are very dedicated hard working people who do a very under appreciated and unrewarded job. I was asked to speak about the Movement, and I was asked to point out that the now very famous 1963 March on Washington was not the beginning of the Movement, it was a land mark along the trail, almost a media event and to some not the beginning but the end of the Civil Rights Movement.

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So this humble group, perhaps twenty marchers, with another dozen more in a support group, carrying tents, and water (they use very little), and a solar cooker that unfolds to look like something from a Green Version of Planet of the Apes, walk step by step, mile upon mile across what’s left of “our country”, one of the most beautiful pieces of real estate on the planet. Who cares? Who knows? No one is going to murder them, though many along the road in Arizona gave them the finger, a common way of Americans to greet each other in this new “hate your neighbor” world of ours.

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I can’t wait to see them in Washington. I can’t wait to join them there. And I hope there is blood in the streets, including mine. I’ve lived a good and long life. Better that most and long enough. What will it take? A trickle, becomes a creek, becomes a river becomes a great mass of people that will not be ignored. If we are going to burn up in the sun. If we are going to choke to death in the smoke of our fires. If we are going to kill each other trying to protect the water that comes out of our well, when ten miles away the city water has dried up. If we are going to dry up and blow away, shouldn’t we at least go down with a fight? With a march? With an arrest? With lots of them? God Bless the Climate Marches. May the gods of change protect them and speed them on their way. They expect to reach DC Nov 1st.

 

And for those like me, who would rather fish than walk, you give them money. First I gave them $500. Then, after refusing to sell a dealer a print, in the middle of the night it occurred to me there was a good use for some money. So I told him, “send the $5000 to the Climate Marchers, you can take it off your taxes.” That money, $5000, was enough to get the entire group half way across the state of Colorado. They have a long way to go. Go to:  http://climatemarch.org/donate-1/

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