Super Spreading Social Justice

by | Dec 20, 2021 | Social Movements

I have been thinking about super-spreader events.

Not the kind that makes hundreds of people sick, but the kinds that transform lives in a good way.

An early one that changed me was the 1979 Take Back the Night March in Minneapolis. The event consisted of a rally in Loring Park and a march down Hennepin Avenue. I was scared to go. I thought we would not be safe marching down Hennepin. My experience with that thoroughfare had been a gauntlet of taunts and grabs.

I was scared, but I went, by myself.

At the rally, organizers circulated with sashes for us to wear, screen-printed with the words, “I survived a rape,” or “I survived an assault.” We chanted slogans and heard speeches that preached that it is never our fault, that we don’t deserve to have these tortures happens to us, that we are strong, that we deserve to walk and dance and sit and be in the night without fear.

We wore our sashes as we marched down Hennepin just as it got dark. The marshals — all women-identified people — held the line, keeping us safe. A man lunged into the crowd. The marshals surrounded him until he retreated. Woah! Just seeing that changed me.

I took the number 6 bus home to my apartment in Dinkytown. The bus was filled with marchers, out in the night, keeping each other safe.

Since then, I have had the honor of participating, and even organizing some super-spreader events big and small — rallies and marches, picket lines, spoken word events, concerts, classrooms — gatherings where people come away with new perspectives and strength, advancing justice. And — just like a COVID 19 super-spreader event — there are ripples, though they may not be as easy to contact- trace as a virus.

Since the murders of George Floyd and Daunte Wright by police, we in Minneapolis have been in the eye of some kind of storm. We have also been the authors of justice-rippling super-spreader events: prayer vigils, silent marches, rallies at the Capitol, gatherings in downtown Minneapolis, downtown St Paul, at George Floyd Square, and on-line. What happens at the trial of Kim Potter, officer accused of manslaughter in the death of Daunte Wright, may or may not end in justice, but we the people, will super-spread our messages of what justice looks like, and the world we are building. And — though we may never trace each drop and wave — we know, there will be ripples.