But there are more than just Sanders’ supporters in the City of Brotherly Love. There are people representing a diverse range of social issues and groups, from anti-private prisons and fracking to Black Lives Matter and the Green Party.
The highlight for me so far has been meeting and marching alongside former Sanders’ surrogate and renowned intellectual Dr. Cornel West, the Harvard and Princeton-educated public intellectual and early surrogate for Bernie. He is this generation’s Dr. Martin Luther King. He’s a humble man who treated me with kindness when I asked to have a picture taken with him. When I apologized for looking a wreck, he said, “Oh, you look wonderful!” and he seemed to really mean it.<figure>Protesters line up Monday afternoon for a “Unity March” that included people from the Green Party, and environmental and social justice groups, among others. Photo by Kyle Goodall</figure>
It’s energizing to be surrounded by like-minded people. And Berners and friends of Berners are some of the nicest people around. I flush very easily and so I looked like I could pass out any minute along the march route. I had people on two different occasions come up to me and offer their water and ask me if I was OK (I was).
One man dumped his entire bottle of water over my head without warning. He explained, “We gotta keep cool, and we need you. I hope you aren’t offended.”
Another woman who carried a spray bottle shot me in the face without asking. Again, no offense taken. Berners look out for each other, and she could tell I was struggling. I ended up walking about three of the four-mile march before taking a rest in a Starbucks. Heat — in particular humidity — really gets to me, so I appreciated the the woman’s spontaneous cool-down.
It was also very easy to strike up conversations and actually discuss real issues with fellow Progressives. Small talk was skipped over. Complete strangers talked about media bias or the human cost of privately-run prisons. We could talk for 30 minutes without awkward silences even though we had just met. That is something I can’t do, unfortunately, in my suburban Detroit community.<figure>As a high school English teacher, I appreciate the literary allusion. Photo by Yvonne C. Claes</figure>
I’m about to head out for Day Two of marching. The temperature is supposed to get into the 100-range. That’s OK. Berners can take the heat.
I know that this post isn’t my usual fact-oriented, take-no-prisoners missive. I just wanted to give you a sense of what it was like in Philly. I didn’t go there as a “reporter.” I went there as a protester for the 99 percent and Bernie. Sorry if that bums out some of you. I just wanted to enjoy and soak in the experience as much as I could.