they speak by porter yelton
The thing about it is you don’t even have to know why they’re doing it. You don’t have to know what the reason is, not at first. You see them waving their signs and chanting their chants and blocking your streets—what good does it do to block the street in front of your office, or the street you have to walk along or drive down to get to your office, or the entrance to the park you usually walk across to get home after work? If you ask them they will tell you. They will tell you it is because their streets have been blocked, their parks closed off, their entrances barred from all sorts of places, things, moments, memories: these are the people who have been denied access to the luxury that is the simple worry of how you will make it to work on time if there are people in the street that make slow the journey you take to get there. They will tell you and they will mean they want to be loved. They want to be allowed to speak. That is it: to speak and to be heard. They want to exist.
They will not chant something you do not want to hear in your face; they will not demand that you fix things and try to make the world a better place with the power you brandish like a weapon you haven’t learned to use; no, they will look at you and they will smile, or maybe you’ll see tears in their eyes, or maybe you won’t even need to know why they’re doing it when you see the pain on their faces at the mere prospect that they feel like they have to be doing it, that they have decided to be here, doing it, instead of wondering how they will get to their own jobs, their own homes, without facing delays. The delay, to them, has become unimportant. But they’ll tell you why they’re doing it. They’ll tell you why they’re blocking this street, that street, the only park entrance. You are not the one behind the glass windows in an office whose people brandish that same power like that same unfamiliar weapon.
That is, of course, until you find a way to get through the crowd and through the door that hides you from the world, until you’re so high up in the tower, so protected and nurtured by views they will never see, perspectives of a city you’ve only ever loved from this high up—because when you’re up there, at least it seems lately: you can’t hear anything. You can’t see anything. Nothing but the hum of what’s inside that little room, the little engine of power that could but would not, only because you would not make it with what was inside of you.
But there’s something you don’t realize they know: they know you don’t get to that place up high in that tower without walking across the ground they know as home, and they know an elevator has to take you there. They know you have to see them before you go inside. And they will be seen. And they will continue to be seen until they are seen so fully until they do not need to be so seen at all. Sound paradoxical? It is. If you do not want them crowding the streets in front of your building, the entrance to your park: they will stop, as soon as they stop being them. As soon as the buildings and the parks and the rights of those below stop being yours. Because they are not yours. No person is a them. And you, you misunderstand the word “protest.” A protest is an objection—not a bloody battle nor a wish for anything of the sort. Not today, not this year. It is a coming together, a unity you will not be so blessed as to understand until you allow yourself to enter it, allow it to enter you.
“They” do not exist. “You” do not exist. WE exist, and the streets will be crowded and the parks will be blocked and your conscience will be full like the small doorway into your small elevator up to the office so small it does not matter how big the sky outside of it is—this will be the case until you understand this. You do have the ability, you know—you already understand it. You do. Ride the elevator down—or try taking the stairs—and look at the joy that has been brought together in one place by so much effort to make it pain. We will not let it be pain; we will not allow it. We are stronger than pain, and you are part of our strength. Look, smell, hear, feel: these are the voices of our people, the voices that will be heard. Hear them. You already hear them. Listen. They speak.