There was a thin sliver of moon still in my eyesight as we approached the center of Chinatown. I could feel the weight of gravity pulling me closer to the pavement as a constant reminder that we were only human in this moment of American catastrophe. In a land that we continually fight for freedom within, I was marching down the heart of Chinatown in Washington, D.C. with two hundred people in front of me and about three hundred people behind me. They were protesting the fact that Hillary Clinton hadn't been elected President of the United States. My friends and I were protesting the fact that Flint doesn't have clean water, kids in Baltimore still don't have access to quality education, every 109 seconds an American is sexually assaulted and now an openly bigoted reality star is now our President. I would say that the only thought I had as we made our way from Chinatown to the Trump Hotel was that this all felt like a movie, but that would be a lie. This all felt very real and a continuation of what has been happening in this country, this district and this city that we call our capital. Election season is always unnatural for me.
The first time I experienced an election season in Washington, D.C. was in 2009. I experienced Obama's first inauguration firsthand. I was 13 and there for a conference held at the National 4-H Center. We went the inaugural address, the University of Maryland, the Smithsonian and had our own ball. It was oh so memorable. I remember the balloons, the red, white and blue and the uneasiness of the celebration. I remember the cold. I remember the afterparty at the conference. I remember going back to the hotel room. I remember my roommates letting her and her friends in. I remember asking if she was in the high school program or even a counselor. I remember her hands going in places they shouldn't go. I remember not wanting it. I remember trying to get away. I remember my roommates blocking the room and telling me that it would make me a "man". I remember them telling me I should enjoy it. I remember her telling me not to tell anyone. I don't remember that night. I try not to remember that night. I remember hiding in the bed until the next morning came and my parents came to pick me up from the conference. I remember never telling anybody until the week of my 21st birthday.
For you, its election season. For me, it is an anniversary and reminder of what is wrong with this country and this world. There are somethings that politicians can't fix. No matter who is elected, whether it be Hillary or Trump, election season will remain uneasy in Washington, D.C. and the DMV area.
As the protest moved closer, things turned more chaotic. It was reminiscent of what I witnessed in Baltimore during my first year of college when Freddy Gray was killed. As we stepped out of the street and onto the sidewalk adjacent to Trump Tower, I could still smell the scent of the burning CVS. In the bottom of my ear, I could still hear the rage of the woman who shouted her fears of losing her life or her children's lives at the hands of police. That was only eighteen months ago, seventy five minutes away and I don't remember Trump nor Hillary being there to comfort those families. The only difference between that protest and this one was the fact that white people were actually there to care as they co-opted our struggle into one that fit their pain. It wasn't much different than the way that election day had started in the nation's capital.
It was 9:45 a.m. as I scurried into a lecture hall on the main campus of American University. I was near the front door the Ward Building when a man nearly twice my age pushed past me as he proudly donned a Make America Great Again. As a journalism major, there are days when my 9:45 a.m. Biology class will feel more pointless than others. On November 8th, every class felt that way. On a day where people decide whether the man that will refer to us as "the Blacks" or the woman that would once incarcerate me at the blink of an eye, every class seems debatable. I played this game of value in the education system until approximately 4:45 p.m. when my final class came to a halt. I waited around the student activity center and then went to U Street where people seemed a little bit more upbeat than I. I headed to work and then back to the Capitol afterwards where the night began to settle in and the reality of a Trump presidency did as well. There was a man that drove by screaming "white power" as he drove by. Four hours later, Donald Trump was elected President. 18 hours later, multiple trans people have committed suicide as a result, there are protests at my own university and I am standing here in front of Trump Towers thirty six hours after I woke up on Election Tuesday as protesters argue about the focus of the protest.
Again, I will say that this is not an election season for me. This is an unwanted anniversary. This is pain. This struggle. This is an everyday fight that certain white people have suddenly decided was a fight that they should join. Where were you when they asked for President Obama's birth certificate? Where were you when Freddy Gray was killed? Where were you when a black boy was being taken advantage of in his hotel room on what should have been a night of celebration in the nation's capital? This is not a fight that has just started and I feel confident in saying that Hillary Clinton would not have cared anymore about me and my loved ones than Trump does. You can say that he's not your president, but that doesn't give kids in Flint, water. It doesn't change the fight that has always been there for me, other black bodies, brown bodies and so many other beings in this country that until the morning of November 9th, no one gave a damn about. This is personal to me because of my lived experiences and my identity. This is personal to me because some people are suddenly deciding to care. Nothing will change in this country until we tear this country down and build it up again brick by brick. Are you willing to do that?