“There are so many reasons why I’m protesting. Obviously I’m protesting for George [Floyd]. And I also protest for so many other people who have experienced violence from police forces all over the country. But it really goes much deeper than that. I think the pandemic has highlighted how corrupt our systems are, and how they don’t actually help the people. So many at the top have not been helping those below them—I’m talking about the government, big corporations, clients that I’ve worked with as a makeup artist... And this is not just an American thing. These are not isolated incidents. There are problems all over the world that need to be solved, and it’s reassuring to feel so globally united right now. So many people in different parts of the world are out here protesting the same thing I am.
I’ve been out with the protests for the past four days. It’s so weird because last year I had this really strong urge to start all this hardcore training, and started running miles. I didn’t really know what I was training for, and then when these protests started, it felt like this was it. Especially with the pandemic, I know that there are a lot of other people who would like to be out protesting but can’t be. I’m in a position where my health can sustain me through this, which I think is a big reason I feel so compelled to go. And despite all the energy I’ve put out in the past few days, I’ve definitely noticed myself getting stronger.
If you’re going to do this, I think it’s really important to take care of yourself. Rest has definitely been imperative, and eating right. For breakfast, I make a bowl with chia and flax seeds, hemp hearts, cashews, almonds, raspberries, blueberries, and unsweetened coconut milk—stuff that will fuel me but is still light. Then I make a little stir fry with carrots, broccoli, peppers, and mushrooms, and a little farro or couscous, to bring for lunch. It’s great protest warrior food. You should also bring a small bottle of water, some snacks (like nuts and a granola bar), and some sun protectant. I’ve been using lip balm because I realize that underneath the mask, with all the shouting, my lips get kind of dry. I also have a breath freshener spray, which has come in handy, and some Halls cough drops for a little burst of sugar. And obviously, it’s really important to wear good walking or running shoes.
The first day, I picked up a friend and we went to Prospect Park. I would recommend going with at least one other person so someone’s there to keep an eye on you. I’ve had to step in a few times and help protect other people… Even though I’ve protested for a few days now, I still wouldn’t want to be out here by myself. That first time, I had no real idea of how things were organized—I wasn’t even sure if it was going to be a rally or a march. But it was sort of like getting on a train. We just found the crowd, hopped in with them, and even though we had no idea what the final destination was we trusted each other enough to go. The crowd was a true representation of New York—it didn’t boil down to any one particular sect or race or age, and I loved it. I’ve also never been surrounded by so many people who want to take care of me. There are wonderful people who sit on the side in cars, handing out water, masks, hand sanitizer, food, and first aid supplies. It’s incredible. We ended up going from Prospect Park to the Brooklyn Library, and then stopped for a while by the Detention Center before heading to the Manhattan Bridge.
We were still very peaceful when we got to the bridge, but the police arrived and blocked it off, and that’s when things started to get a little heated. It must have been around 9PM. Once the sun goes down, that’s when the fear comes out. And there are a lot of people in the crowd who cannot defend themselves if things get violent: older people who are not able to run, or parents marching with their children. If there’s a police van over there, the officers will stand in a line and just try and push the crowd back. But if we’re little molecules floating all over the place, police are more likely to actually break the groups apart and incite violence—a little push here, a little tear gas there. So the key at these protests is to stick together. Major, major solidarity. There was a moment I remember when we all looked around and realized how many of us there actually were—thousands. And then the police just let us pass. Nobody got hurt.
Every day since it’s been similar. You see familiar faces, which is nice—yesterday I noticed around 10 or 15 people that I’d seen over the past four days. It’s important that we’re consistent, and checking in on each other, and that there are always level-headed people in the crowd. I’ve had to remind young kids who were so angry and just wanted to throw stuff that, even though they feel ready to take on the police, it’s important to think about who we’re fighting for. Yes, there are people out there who are looting and inciting violence, but there are very, very few. I’ve seen lots of reporters sitting on the sides of protests, just chilling, not filming anything until the drama hits. It really says something about the society that we live in—people are more inclined to watch somebody getting beaten up, and news stations just want the clicks.
Before you go out to a protest, ask yourself why you want to. And then keep checking in: Is this what I want to be doing? Do I want to be here? Am I doing the right thing? If the answer is ever no, go home, send energy of power and protection, and share as much information as you can. What makes this time so different from the era of Martin Luther King is that we have technology, and we should use that to our advantage. You can donate, and if you don’t have the money to donate, share resources with people who do. You can do all of that from the confines of your home.
I get home at around 1AM. To soothe and replenish my skin after being in harsh elements all day, I put rosehip oil all over my face before bed. It’s crazy—during this whole thing, my skin has never looked better. I fall asleep at around 3AM, and then get up and go straight back out. I’m going to another rally in the next hour—I’ll have to check in with some friends and see where they’re going.”
—as told to ITG
Photos via the author