Saturday, March 26, 2016 – So, I am the epitome of a person who is a complete and total free spirit, yet, I am overcome with anxiety if put on the spot and part of an actual plan. In February, I saw a Facebook post for a Bernie Sanders event happening at the Harrisburg Midtown Arts Center, (affectionately known as HMAC). I immediately felt compelled to harass Chris Norris, the creator of the event. I had never met Chris, but I desperately wanted to be involved. I commented relentlessly on the event page’s posts and sent him numerous messages. I told him I would help with anything; speaking about healthcare, voter registration, organizational tasks or whatever else he needed. Chris finally yielded and asked me to help him organize the march, which was kicking off the all-day event. I was incredibly excited about being able to help start the festivities and get everyone hyped up! Not to mention that I could also get my main duties over with and calm my nerves for the rest of the day.
The Wednesday before the event, Chris and I met with a few other organizers to go over the logistics of the march. He greeted me with a hug, which calmed me with relief. We decided to start the march at HMAC, which is on 3rd and Herr and walk to the Harrisburg Capitol building. It was ideal, considering it was less than a mile round-trip, so we would be back at HMAC in plenty of time to kick-off the main event. I shared my list of chants, (which I learned from the Bernie march I did in Philadelphia the month prior) and we created a few new ones.
I had so many ideas of what I wanted to say when I was starting the rally; my mind was racing with concepts I wanted to write down. I would be setting the tone for the fourteen-hour-long event! I now had the painful task of narrowing down what points I wanted to make about Bernie and the importance of voting. It may not seem like a huge deal to some, but I took my responsibility very seriously. I was representing Bernie and his message, in front of many people whom I had never met and I wanted them to feel excited and inspired.
I didn’t sleep or eat much the next few days. I must have written and re-written my speech a dozen times. I had to scrap papers with random thoughts on them, which I had hoped to incorporate somehow. I passed the time by making fifteen signs from scratch. I bought red, white and blue pieces of poster board, stencils and stickers. I printed out countless photos and memes to paste to the posters as well. I knew there would be at least a few people who would come to the rally sans signs and I wanted to make sure they would be able to participate in the fun to the fullest.
I messaged my friend, Steve Todd on Facebook to ask him if he would like to say a few words when we reached the Capitol. Throughout my Bernie crusade, Steve has inadvertently become my mentor of sorts. I hadn’t yet met Steve in person, but we socialized on Facebook quite frequently. He is incredibly knowledgeable about the political process, including on the state and local level. As I had hoped, Steve said that he would be honored to speak at the rally.
The morning of the YUGE day, I ran around my house like mad. I looked at my scrap-paper lists, post-it note lists and notebook to make sure I brought everything with me that I needed. I was meeting Chris, Steve and the others at HMAC at 11:00 a.m. At about 10:30 a.m. I gave in and took a much-needed Ativan.
At about 10:55 a.m., I walked into HMAC and saw a number of people already there. They were wearing Bernie shirts and buttons and talking about how excited they were for the event. I welcomed people as they walked in and encouraged them to grab signs and stickers. I thanked people for coming out and told them we sincerely appreciated their devotion to Bernie.
I have spoken with literally hundreds of Bernie supporters online and I honestly have never encountered anything like it. People who support him are so incredibly kind, warm and compassionate. We truly have each others backs and it wasn’t any different with the people I met at the rally. I was given hugs and sharing heartfelt stories with people I had never even met. There is an intangible connection between Bernie’s supporters. It is a unity most of us have never come close to feeling before. I am one of many who has had their faith in humanity restored since Bernie has come into their lives.
At about 11:55 a.m. Chris approached me to say we were now going to be starting the rally outside. Although I had never used a megaphone, I was beyond relieved that I didn’t have to go on a stage and use a microphone.
When I reached the outside starting point, I witnessed over 300 people cheering, clapping and holding signs. They were waving at traffic and getting energized to represent our guy. I couldn’t believe there were so many people! It was no short of magical.
I was handed the megaphone at about 12:01 p.m. All eyes were on me as I proceeded to ask “How do I turn this on”, which was answered with “It is already on…just yell into it”. At that point, my script was pretty obsolete. I went with the moment. In fact, so much so that the first thing I yelled was “Are you guys ready to show your support for our grumpy grandpa, Mr. Bernie freakin’ Sanders”. Yes, I really did say that. At least I followed it up with “So many beautiful people here for such a beautiful day”. Regardless, people were kind and excited enough to cheer for pretty much anything anyone said.
I announced that residents had until Monday, March 28th to register to vote for Bernie in the PA primary on April 26th. I also reminded people that because Pa. has a closed primary, they need to be switched to a Democrat to be able to vote for Bernie. I advised everyone to check their registration and make sure they are STILL registered as a Democrat, given all of the tampering which has been transpiring in other states.
I then proceeded to go over the chants we would be saying on our march: “We- are- the- 99%”, “Show me what democracy looks like- This is what democracy looks like”, “Hey- Hey, Ho- Ho, the oligarchy’s got to go”, “Bern against the machine”, “We are unstoppable. Another world is possible”, “Fuel the Bern” and of course, the classic “Bernie! Bernie! Bernie!”. The crowd was awesome with repeating the chants! I figured they would say each one 3 or 4 times, but it was way more like double-digits.
I thanked Chris, HMAC, the volunteers and everyone who came out to support Bernie’s revolution. And with that, we set off down the street; cheering with our signs and fists in the air. We heard car horns beeping and witnessed people filming us on their phones. Several cars drove by with Bernie signs in the window and bumper stickers on the back. I was overwhelmed with pride. Not only was I taking part in something amazing, I actually helped organize it as well.
Something unique about Bernie’s brigade is that we all have so many differences, especially aesthetically. Often, a presidential candidate has an audience resembling carbon-copies of themselves. With Bernie, his supporters are many different ethnicities and age groups. I looked around and there were definitely people other than the college kid proto-type the mainstream media leads you to believe are the majority of his devout followers. There were also numerous children and dogs who joined us. The kids were ecstatic, yet they had no concept of the depth of what they are encountering. When they are older, I have no doubt they will respect and thank their parents for including them in Bernie’s revolution!
When we reached the Capitol, it was overwhelming to see hundreds of people walking up the steps, all while cheering for what we believe in; love, strength, compassion, truth, empathy and justice! I had goosebumps at the sight.
I used the megaphone to call Steve down to speak to everyone. He shared information that many Pennsylvanians are not aware of. In several states, (Including Pennsylvania) it is not an automatic process to be put on the ballot. We needed 2,000 signatures by Pennsylvanians in their prospective districts to even have the option of voting for Senator Sanders. I was one of the fortunate people able to join Steve and others on the filing deadline to turn in the over 18,000 signatures actually obtained! Why stop at the bare minimum? Pa was definitely feeling the Bern!
While the megaphone was switching hands, I did an impromptu “Have I told you guys in the past 10 minutes how incredibly freakin’ awesome you are”!!!! at the top of my lungs. The camaraderie and positive energy was palpable. I relished in that moment; never wanting it to end.
At about 12:35 p.m. we started our walk back to HMAC and I fought back the tears as hard as I could. Someone started singing “Power to the people” and I was relieved I was hiding behind my sunglasses.
Of course, I’ve voted before, but I have never experienced such a fervor and passion for a candidate, like I have for Bernie. When we reached our destination, people continued to cheer and chant and wave their signs. We stopped moving for the march, but our Bernie brigade was not done yet! We stayed out there for at least another 20 minutes!
So much gets lost in translation. Being part of Bernie’s movement has been life-change for me and for countless others. I’ve witnessed more kindness and passion for helping others in the past 10 months than I have in my entire life, combined.
Regardless of the outcome in November, Bernie Sanders has shown the world that it is possible to run for the president of the United States of America, All while being an honest, compassionate and beautiful human being. He has changed politics forever. And that, my friends, is a political revolution!
Joy Marie Manbeck resides in Camp Hill, Pa and can be reached on Facebook or by email: firstname.lastname@example.org