Years ago, so long ago it seems like it was a dream, or that the man in the street was someone other than myself, I marched with my Latino sisters and brothers through a Columbia Heights very different than the neighborhood of today. It was right after the Mt. Pleasant Riots, the anger at an unarmed Hispanic man being shot by police on Columbia Road still present in the chants of the marchers.
“¡El pueblo unido, jamás será vencido!”
“The people united will never be defeated!”
We marched behind a red banner with the same words in white spray paint on the front. (Later, I took the banner home, tore it into strips, and made an art piece with it).
It began to rain. We laughed, shouted louder, and kept marching.
I began to say these words.
“La lluvia viene como la Raza.”
“La Raza viene como la lluvia.”
“The rain is coming like the people.”
“The people are coming like the rain.”
I no longer recognize the place I called home those many years long ago. Condos and chain stores crowd the sky, looming over what used to be burned out storefronts and the charred pavement where the police cars were set ablaze. A different kind of people walk the sidewalk where I staggered, my eyes burning with tear gas.
Change came, but I doubt it was the kind we were marching for. I can’t help but wonder how many of the people in the crowd behind that red banner on that rainy day were priced right out of their own barrio.
Yet, I doubt any us regretted our march through the streets, or the subsequent protests, or the candlelight vigils, or the community meetings at the Unitarian Church, or the light in the dark eyes of the youth who finally felt empowered to do something, whether we agreed with their methods or not.
You see, the people keep coming like the rain.
And we will keep coming, marching behind banners, be they red, white, or blue, raising our voices, until the noise of our passing rattles the powers that be like hard rain on a metal roof.
Yes, we, the people, will keep coming like the rain, until, as the prophet Amos said, “justice roll(s) down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.”