While the Rally was happening at City Hall I saw something beautiful

PNNscholar1 - Posted on 06 November 2012

Tony Robles

I recently attended a rally at City Hall in San Francisco.  Hundreds gathered in support of rent control, speaking out against the attempt of rich corporate interests to buy city hall--which are funding the campaigns of supervisor candidates that would weaken tenant protections and roll back, or perhaps eliminate rent control.  As I made my way to the rally, I saw many campaign flyers, leaflets and placards.  I’ve received so many campaign materials by mail that I could start a small bonfire and roast marshmallows to my heart’s content.  One particular flyer caught my attention. On it was the face of a supervisorial candidate.  He had one of those smiles that my father would describe as chickenshitHe looked like an Asian Mitt Romney.  I glanced at the flyer and cut my finger on the edge.  I felt a bit ill looking at this candidate’s face.  We finally parted ways—him into the recycle bin and me out the door.


As I walked down the street I kept seeing many of the candidate’s faces—their hanging flyers having fallen off doorknobs, leaving them exposed on the sidewalk.  Those flyers, glossy, each word and picture laid out just right by the print shop.  I saw the flyer of the district supervisor candidate who seemed to have it all—clean smile, clean face, clean shirt, clean glasses, clean nose—until he became embroiled in a scandal alleging he groped a woman at a bar 6 years ago.  I didn’t see that coming (and I guess she didn’t either, as it was likely a dark bar).  I saw all those smiling candidates faces on the ground---some face-up, some facedown.  I couldn’t escape.  I stepped on one by accident.  I felt bad.


So there I was among my brethren—people of color, activists, mothers, fathers, union workers among others.  Activists spoke about the need to protect rent control in San Francisco; the best way in achieving this, electing supervisors that will stand up to protect tenants rights in a city whose rents are among the highest in the country.  A woman spoke about how many people have to hold down two jobs just to make it.  She spoke for many when she said that many people would be priced out of San Francisco if not for rent control. 


One by one the speakers spoke about how rent control was under attack.  I stood on the steps of city hall with my protest sign.  The sun above bathed our crowd with much interest with no competition from shade—building, tree or otherwise.  As the speakers continued speaking, representing a wide number of communities and organizations, something caught my attention.  I saw a young woman at the bottom of the front entrance steps.  She wore a wedding dress, white and nicely fitted, subtle yet stunning.  She glanced up at the nearby rally.  A downward turn of her mouth revealed her displeasure that such a scene was in progress on this of all days.  Next to her was the husband to be, along with another man steadying a camera while trying to hold on to two bags on either side of him.  The crowd still stood, urging the speakers to speak the truth, and they did, passionately, while some urged people to vote for a specific candidate for supervisor come Election Day. 


But my attention kept getting pulled away to the wedding party.  My eyes were drawn to a woman, an elder wearing a dress.  It looked to be a Korean or Japanese dress—traditional, to be worn for an important occasion.  The woman’s gray hair was wound into a tight bun.  The dress was violet and flowed down to her feet.  The dress looked as if it had been released from a precious place—a chest or closet—filled with the fragrance of flowers holding memory and beauty, to be breathed and cherished.  She stood patiently, not put off by the events going on just a few feet away—demonstration signs, speakers, placards—but going with the moment, the flow of life.  She held herself with a grace and dignity that I cannot describe.  My eyes were moist with the music of her silence.


She slowly ascended the steps towards the entrance to city hall.  I had seen Mayors, Supervisors and other dignitaries walk those steps and through the door.  But none could approach her in the way she took those steps, with an inner strength and spirit that was beyond the comprehension of marble or concrete or other man-made accoutrements.  Maybe she was remembering her own wedding day, maybe it was a similar day to this one.  Or maybe she thought about all the struggles in her life and how they had been worth bearing just to witness this day.  I wanted to stop the rally, wanted everyone to stop for a minute, or a second to see this woman, this elder, this lovely woman who had arrived, who had something to bring, something beautiful, something to cherish.


I put my demonstration sign down in awe of the demonstration of grace approaching in this woman I’d never seen before.  I walked to the door, opened it and nodded as she came closer.  She nodded to me.  All was quiet—no speeches, no slogans, no chanting—nothing.  At that moment, all was clear.  She walked through and entered city hall.  I closed the door behind her.   I turned to the voices of unity and protest drawing me in at once.  But I can’t forget the woman.


(note: Picture from oragamikids.com)


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