Through Ohio, and Deeper Into the Heart

Our crew in Columbus, OH.  Can you feel the explosion? Photo by Harold German Bustamante.

Our crew in Columbus, OH. Can you feel the explosion?
Photo by Harold German Bustamante.

Part 1   Part 2   Part 3   Part 4   Part 5   Part 6   Part 7

By Amy E. Jacobs

Third night, 2am, Columbus, OH. 30+ cars lining the streets of a suburban neighborhood. Sleeping bags on every inch of floor space in the house of a supporter gracious enough to offer to a place to stay. Guitar music filtering in from the backyard. A group of organizers huddled over laptops at the kitchen table.

Oh yeah, and a movie star thrown in the mix as well.

If I close my eyes and allow myself to feel the buzz of this movement in my body, there is a sense of acceleration, of forces gathering. There is a sense of a snowball effect, that we are moving at a pace too quick for anyone to stop.

UpToUs organizers putting their brains together for the ongoing process of creating the journey.  #ThisIsWhatDemocracyLooksLike

UpToUs organizers putting their brains together for the ongoing process of creating the journey.

If I open my eyes and look around, there is support, respect, naturalness, and of course, love.

Saturday we complete the final leg of our journey, from Columbus to Philadelphia. I asked an organizer how many people total were part of the Caravan now, and he told me there’s no way to know anymore. The crew has made valiant efforts to keep track of cars and participants, but the numbers are becoming a challenge to manage. I would estimate 70-90 people are with us now, and more will meet us in Philly from the northern and eastern Caravan routes.

You might expect a feeling of chaos. It looks like that way superficially: so many faces, bodies, dreadlocks, bare feet. But there is actually a deep peace and trust flowing between us. I am not a stranger to spiritual community, but this is a level of connection I’ve truly never experienced before.

We arrived in Columbus to an outdoor gathering that began with a potluck and featured local speakers on a wide variety of issues: LGBTQ rights, grassroots political activism inspired by Bernie Sanders, and discrimination against the Muslim community were the main points of focus. The aforementioned movie star, Shailene Woodley, spoke to the group about the apparent chaos and compared the process we’re in to a snow globe—everything has to be shaken up before we can witness the beauty of the pieces settling. As protesters, activists, and human beings speaking their truths, we are the ones doing the shaking.

Shailene talked about the anger that so many of us feel but encouraged us to “change the narrative.” She said, “angry narratives never work. What works is demanding and claiming your own narrative, one that’s different from how the media portrays us or what anyone tells us is true. We have to dig deep and think about what our narratives are.”

Moreover, “we have to remember that we’re all in this together. Nobody is the leader of this movement, and nobody is a follower in this movement. We’ve got to all support and take care of each other.”

A local band called Cosmosis played next, and caravan-ers took advantage of the chance to dance and get their blood flowing after several long days on the road. Then we participated in a closing ceremony that may have been the most beautiful experience of my life.

Democracy Spring, an organization that fights corruption in politics through non-violent actions, is holding trainings nightly during the DNC.

Democracy Spring, an organization that fights corruption in politics through non-violent actions, is holding trainings nightly during the DNC.

We all made a circle and held hands—there were probably around 120 people total. Kelli Love, another conscious musical artist, had the mic. She named several cultures whose ancient prophecies speak of the time we are living in, “the time when the wheel comes full circle, when all the past histories of oppression and violence come to a boiling point, and when we have the opportunity to come together as one people, one tribe, knowing that what affects you, affects me; when you hurt, I hurt.”

She shared a story from a concert in Minnesota two days ago, when she and some others witnessed a young man being arrested by the police in front of the club where they were performing. She said they observed the arrest silently but at the end calmly asked the officers to “take care of our brother, be gentle with our brother.” And the officers looked them in the eye and said that they would.

That’s what this movement is about, she said: “not causing violence, but being brave, and speaking your truth from your heart.”

“No matter what issue brought you here, no matter what injustice you have suffered, we have to remember that violence only adds to that chaos. Violence has gotten us nowhere. We have to be bold, to show up on the front lines of these struggles with love.”

We finished with a musical chant, created by Adam Elfers of the The Gathering, with the words “It’s up to us/to be the change/that we are bringing to this world today.”(You can hear the audio here.)  We filled in the circle, clapped, danced, and sang. Some people held #UpToUs placards. We put our arms around each other – more than one face was streaked with tears. The final sound was a long Om.

Then we headed to the suburbs, and to the scene I described at the beginning of this article: an enormous tribal sleepover, and the feeling that we are an unstoppable force.

I am 31 years old. I know about the 1960s and 70s through a smattering of books, music, and famous quotes; and also through an intuitive sense that the hippies, the protesters, the men and women who at some points literally gave their lives for justice opened a Pandora’s box, the contents of which American society has yet to sort out.

As I write this, I find myself anticipating a reaction from readers who lived through that era: namely, that this is the same as that. That the group songs, the feeling of brotherhood, and the fight for justice are all the same—and, the “end” will also be the same. We are talking about a revolution, just like the progressive pioneers of the 60s. What will come instead will be a doubling down of the oppressive forces, more violence, and a mass “forgetting” of the youthful spirit that fuels our enthusiasm.

Maybe. I make a conscious effort every day to balance hope with realism, and to stay mentally in a place of deep respect for those who have lived more life than I.

But I can’t help thinking to myself something that I’ve also heard several times on this journey by those with a few decades on me: this is different.


The most concrete answer I can give is organization. It exists on a different level than it did in the 1960s, in the form of collaboration between groups and facilitated by the increased communication power offered by the internet. “Tune in, turn on, drop out” is not a motto that would resonate with anyone in this movement—the emphasis here is on action, and mutual support in the process.

There is also something deeper, which I’m still not sure I can articulate, though it is becoming more clear through my current immersion in this “tribe.” It has to do with individual ownership of one’s life. As I mentioned in an earlier article , everyone here – at least whom I’ve spoken with – is doing something pro-active for a better world in their education, their careers, and their everyday lives. There is a huge amount of creativity being exercised. Whether it be through music, writing, activism, marketing, spiritual counseling or engineering, people are developing their passions and gifts and offering their services. And they are supporting one another as part of an organized, communal, greater movement.

I felt this deeply during Friday night’s event in the park, as I backed away from the crowd and took a moment for the past few days to process. I saw a gathering filled not just with the hope of human potential, but of human potential itself, actualized in hundreds of unique ways with an infinite number yet to come. I saw a moment of well-deserved collective celebration in the midst of powerful action.

I know there is a lot of energy on the other side of the spectrum—the anger, fear, and hatred showcased at last week’s Republican National Convention leave no argument about that.

So which way will the arc of history bend?

In my opinion, it will depend on how deeply and strongly we are able to love.

Part 1   Part 2   Part 3   Part 4   Part 5   Part 6   Part 7

5 thoughts on “Through Ohio, and Deeper Into the Heart

  1. KittyJ

    Amy, thank you for making this journey and sharing it with us. In observing the events of the past year, it seems to me that there has always been an innate creativity and resilience in the movement that coalesced around the Sanders campaign. To me, that is a sign that this is the real deal, a true revolutionary movement.

    With respect to the generational thing, as a Boomer I remember vividly what happened in the ’60s and thereafter. I know that some of my age cohort will tell you that “you’re being naive, it can’t happen, it will never work, you’ll just get crushed in the end.” Here’s my take on that:

    People in my generation went through the cultural upheaval of the ’60s and witnessed the assassinations of JFK, MLK and RFK, the police riot at the 1968 Dem convention, Kent State, and so on. Following our idealism, we began to make changes, and received serious pushback from the powers that be, the military-industrial complex in particular. (Not that we all understood that fact, but we must have sensed it at some level.) Our parents were essentially helpless to respond effectively, because their generation – the one in charge at that time – respected and trusted authority. In a Facebook Bernie group discussion this week about the goings-on at the DNC, a young Sanders supporter asked if what they’re feeling now is like the outrage Americans must have felt at the time of Watergate. My response was that when Watergate came along, our parents’ generation was shocked and stunned, not outraged.

    I think I may have posted about this here at PW before, but I believe the Boomers as a generation (and maybe the American people as a whole, or at least those over 50 or so) are suffering from some form of PTSD, as well as Stockholm syndrome or trauma bonding. It would explain their passivity and sense of dis-empowerment over the past 35 years, going along placidly with whatever happened, be it the destruction of the middle class, the impingement on our civil liberties post-9/11, etc. They became great consumers and rarely questioned whether things actually needed to be the way they were. It’s as if they went into a deep sleep sometime during the 1970s and have been sleepwalking ever since. Those of us Boomers who did not completely fall asleep were marginalized and found it hard to get traction to push back.

    So I look at what’s happening now, and I keep thinking, please, Millennials, do not respond the way we Boomers did. You are very different from the Boomers, the times are different, and the requirements of the time are different. I believe that the course of human evolution – as well as the well-being of our planet – are requiring that we change radically. There is a paradigm shift in process, and we are all a part of it. You are a vital part of it. You are doing it.

  2. Greg Macdougall

    thanks for this, i appreciate it

    few thoughts:

    fact-check, is violence completely unhelpful?
    some would point to the armed struggle in India that provided the space for Gandhi’s non-violent movement to succeed in getting some of its demands met – ie where it not for a more radical movement, the one led by Gandhi would not have been received as well by the authorites. perhaps the same in the US with the armed Black power and American Indian movements?

    narrative, and the ‘failed possibilities’ of the earlier generations
    the one ‘narrative’ that has left the biggest single impression on me, from the earlier generations of activism that was before my time, is Hunter Thompson’s desription of the ‘cresting wave’ that reached to a certain height, not high enough to fully overcome, as he kind of captures the moment of that ‘not quite high enough cresting’ of the wave
    (looking up his actual wording would probably be worthwhile for anyone interested)

    are we better organized?
    from my experience (of the more recent past; again not having experienced 60s-era activism) i think a better term might be ‘connected’ rather than ‘organized’ … perhaps using things like ‘Nation Builder’ and other online tools, some groups are better organized, but i also think back to what must have been many groups that had much more in person discussions to work out their plans, strategy, tactics, vision … their organization
    whereas i’m not sure that all the onlinedness of our present situation is really about being organized (?) perhaps it is but i think that, at least in some ways, it is accurate to say we are much more connected with each other

    and…. back again to ‘lessons learned’ or perspective from the earlier generations
    (and thanks KittyJ for your perspective 🙂

    i really appreciate what John Trudell has to say in this video/speech excerpt with some mood music added in – specifically about his understanding of the shortcomings of what they (he was a spokesperson for the American Indian Movement, the occupation of Alcatraz, some anti-nuclear work, …) were doing back then – as he says, it is really important to actually think and not just to believe, another quote from him talks about how we will not understand our lives aka what is going on without looking back and using our previous experiences, and i do not see often people who were so heavily involved in very intense, and ‘successful’ in some ways, reflecting too much on exactly what happened and why the changes they wanted didn’t end up happening. so with that, here he is (RIP):

    “… but your generation is literally being handed into slavery. The more you chant and rah-rah the freedom word, the further into slavery you’re being led, so I’m telling you, it’s in your best interest to use your intelligence as clearly and coherently as you can, and don’t believe anything, question everything, think about everything. Because we’ve handed you over, our generation did it because we didn’t think things out. We reacted emotionally based on what we believed. We fought a holding battle, so we could hold our own to a certain degree, and we got some gains here and there, see, but that’s all that it was. See somewhere in here, someone’s got to inject clear thinking . Whatever it is that’s going on, it can’t be outfought, it’s never going to happen. But it can be out-thought. You have something confronted against you that you need to fight, whatever the form, you need to out-think it. See, so this is really about thinking, but we’re never encouraged to go that way: we’re encouraged to believe and to fight, we’re not taught or never encouraged to think. …”

    and relatedly, there is the quote from Einstein – if he had an hour to solve ____________ (problem/issue), he would spend the first 55min correctly identifying/understanding the problem or figuring out what is the exact (most important) question to ask, and then from doing that well, the correct or best way to move forward would present itself fairly simply

  3. Lyd

    Amy, just a brief response to your ‘journal’ of the Up To Us experience thus far. Thank you from my heart for choosing to do, be, empower, connect, and unite in creating a picture of a future you and others envision.

    I absolutely second the thoughts shared by Kittyj. You are vital and are making a difference. At 68, I can reflect on the actions of my generation both enthusiastically and sadly. (These are my own thoughts, as others undoubtedly experienced it differently). No matter the honour of our intentions for positive change, no matter how loud, bold, determined, imo, we were not as organized for the long haul, did not have the technology available today for connecting, were so outraged, that love got sidelined…somewhere, somehow the energy fizzled. We found ourselves caught in an everyday life that had it’s own demands and as Kittyj states, we stopped questioning. Questions about why a Government was choosing to destroy lives rather than support them; questions of why separation still continued; questions of control, rights, and why ‘difference’ was not acceptable, why House Representatives never seemed to represent.. Ultimately for some, it came down to feelings of disempowerment that nothing, nothing was ever going to change and even if there was a chance there was no energy/power left to change it. We became asleep at the wheel. The outrage continued to eat at us from the inside, antacids became a remedy.

    No matter the gross heaviness of a 14-year Vietnam War, JFK, Kent state, Watergate, zero rights for Indigenous peoples, people of colour, cripes, just citizen rights period, steps were taken and well, here we are in a revolution with more insight/tools/accessibility; a generation that is ‘thinking’ differently, has history to consider (what worked/what did not), and if I may, has a spiritual component I personally feel was lacking in my generation.

    The steps continue to be taken, and I applaud your participation on this journey.

    Greg Macdougall: thank you so much for quoting John Trudell. I happened to live in San Francisco in the 60’s through 80’s…the 19 -month occupation of Alcatraz was observed and supported by many, including myself. He could face a storm with such calm, and never compromised his truth. ” we’re encouraged to believe and fight, we’re not taught or ever encouraged to think…” indeed.

    Also, thanks to PW for offering Up To US.

  4. sally

    I’m loving these, Amy. Thanks for sharing, thanks for moving your body. Also – a republic services banner!? Happy to see some awareness around the issue moved through your group.

    The community near the landfill posts their meetings on youtube and back in October, when schools sent home nebulous emergency evacuation plans, people finally came to the meetings demanding answers from public officials. In an astonishing moment of audience Q&A, a woman in attendance from Chernobyl spoke: her comment is worth hearing. Her truth, piercing. To me, she resonates as a voice of wisdom on the general climate we’re facing at this moment in history, though she speaks specifically to radioactive waste concerns. Maybe it’s because this issue is personal for me, but through her story I hear a call to greater political action from someone that’s lived through an ugly reality…degrees of vulnerability are not so wide.

  5. Amy Jacobs Post author

    Sally, we had some AMAZING West Lake activists who joined us in Missouri. They staged a “die-in” in Philly – there’s footage of it here:

    They also passed along this beautiful message to the group from a St. Louis mother:
    “Words cannot express the gratitude I have felt over the past couple days watching all of you traveling across this nation to stand up for so many issues this we all face daily. You are giving us hope! You are giving our children and our community hope that we are loved and worth being protected from the worst toxic site in the country. I am the founder of the West Lake Landfill facebook group, and I can remember waking my husband up one night when I saw we had 200 members, I was so happy and excited that 200 people were paying attention…… after watching you guys out there, educating, and standing up for our issue, all I could do was cry. It is so emotional! You guys are carrying this to the top, and even though I don’t know any of you personally I feel so much love for each and everyone of you! Alex….you are a great leader! I thank you all from the bottom of my heart!” Karen Nickel Just Moms STL

    I had never heard of this issue before and I think a LOT of awareness was definitely generated.

    There is info on the Facebook link above for anyone who wants to take more action <3

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