Last weekend, more than 8,500 people came together in Oakland, California, for a demonstration called Hands Around Lake Merritt. It was dreamed up by Alison White, a somatic psychotherapist with a vision to connect community during the post-election. Lake Merritt, in the heart of Oakland, is roughly 3.4 miles around.
White happens to be part of my somatic community, and it was clear upon seeing her Sunday that she was overwhelmed in the best possible way by the massive turnout and support. The event had taken on a life of its own, but what was also very palpable was the strong sense of shared fears, desire for healing and a coming together of people of every walk of life, ethnicity, ability and size.
Before the main event, an “empathy tent” was set up for anyone who wanted to talk. A group of psychotherapists were available for listening and witnessing. A group of young teenage girls had made shirts reading: “MY pussy is not up for grabs,” which they were selling so they could donate proceeds to Planned Parenthood. There were also multiple volunteers taking donations for Standing Rock.
The event was structured to contain moments of silence and reflection. In those moments of reflection, what struck me most was that this many people had shown up in a tangible way. This many people felt called to take this action. And so I wondered: what can we do with this many people to effect further change? What is one other tangible thing that each of us there could do to further spread our truth that we choose love over hate? What can we do to show that racism, sexism, misogyny, homophobia and xenophobia have no place in our social structures nor our governing bodies?
Amidst the cheering and clapping and crying, I also sensed a small spark of hope in our sharing of pain. There was a strong sense of pride in the Bay Area community for being radical enough to stand up in this way. By the end, I felt a communal sense of restored hope as we were all so viscerally reminded that humans come together during times of crisis. Hopefully the next four years will bring more unity and collaboration for change.