Tales from the Road #4: Step Off In Memphis
By Francie Hunt, Executive Director | Oct. 11, 2022, 10:13 p.m.
On Monday, September 26th, we stepped off in Memphis for the first day of our walk. Aerris Newton, our Campaign and Communications Manager, did a great job providing all of the food and logistics for the event. There were about 30 people who helped kick us off and we had an incredible Press conference. It was so moving to see pastors like Dr. Rev. Courtney Pace, Rev. Josh Harper an alum from the B.L.A.C.K. Organizing Program, and Rev. Elise Salisbury who is a minister and works with SisterReach. Each of them shared their blessing for this walk. I would encourage people to watch the remarks from the press conference because everybody was so moving.
I decided to use the Yoni symbol as the mark off symbol for when I start and end each leg. That way I know where I need to start each day based on where we marked the day before.
It was such a crisp beautiful day in Memphis, such a sharp contrast after the heat wave the previous week. Tons of folks would honk at us in support of our walk. Bo Parr drove the support vehicle. On the back of the camper van, it said “Caution Pedestrians” and on both sides of the van were signs that said “Walk For Our Lives”. She took over the right lane and put on her hazards so that all 30 walkers would be protected in the right lane as we took it over to walk that stent.
There were three disturbing white males during that kick-off walk. One was a guy who looked like he would be in his 20s riding a BMX bike and when he saw us, because some of us were carrying Planned Parenthood signs, he started screaming at us and telling us that we need to use condoms and close our legs. (Which actually are kind of contradictory statements if you think about it.)
The other man was in a white truck with a “Pray for America” bumper sticker on it. He followed us and pulled over to the side to tell us that we needed to have a permit because we were walking in the right lane of the road which is perfectly legal for us to do. He called the police.
When the police came, I had to explain to them that we are allowed to walk with an opinion and that a permit is not required. I had to explain to him that the antis who are calling the police are not calling because they care so much about our safety. They are calling because they hate us which is why they scream hateful things at us while we’re walking. The police officer seemed to understand and let us go. We were only a mile or so out from the end anyway. He didn't need to waste his time.
Overall, the day was pretty remarkable. People shared their stories. I tried to capture as much video as possible. One woman talked about how she has a child with severe disabilities who is expected to die because Governor Lee won’t allow her family to use their Medicaid out-of-state. Her child can’t get care out of state and use Medicaid so she’s expecting her child to die soon. She was a mom with five kids and now grandchildren.
It is pretty interesting how people ask about my safety. When I start talking to them about traffic or dogs they don’t seem to be as concerned about that. Behind their question is the fear that someone from the pro-life movement will try to kill me. I think even truly hearing the assumption behind that question shows all of the reasons why I need to walk in the first place. We are not going to be afraid.
It’s pretty incredible what we are starting here. Everyone was so encouraged and I’m excited to see how it continues to build upon itself. Julie, our Advocacy and Organizing Manager, had to travel to Memphis to restart the clinic greeter program. They booked us an Airbnb to stay in while we kicked off the walk in Memphis. Tonight we are staying in an Airbnb and had dinner with Ashley Coffield who visited. We were talking about how we need to look at this time as an opportunity for growth and see how it impacts our ability to strengthen the movement. Everything is becoming more and more individualized and we have to think about how that gives us a chance to build and reach out in new ways.
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