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  • “Dance, Dance. Otherwise we are lost.” -Pina


    Out from the darkness a woman races towards the far wall of a bronzed German castle. Her torso violently folds and her hips pull her back. She has a harness just below her ribs and the rope is attached to a hidden wall somewhere in the darkness. She struggles running and grasping air to escape her restrictions, her master. Like a pendulum, she moves in a semicircle, straining to break free, until she collapses to the dirt floor. Her frail white dress presumably covered in soot and despair. Again she is up and running. Same thing happens like a water droplet escaping from a moldy faucet: a jolt, a race, collapse, resignation.


    I slid into a dim lit lecture hall, just as my professor had darkened the room to announce we’d be watching a documentary on tree frogs today. It was May Day 2009 in New York City. While International Worker’s Day always seemed bound up in immigrant rights, this year’s marches and rallies that called for legalization of the undocumented, an end to the raids and deportations, seemed to be at the forefront of so many minds in sharper focus. Largely for me, is because of Josh Muldavin, the teacher of this very lecture.

    I fidgeted in my seat. I felt anxious as I searched around my bag for a pen and paper. Tree frogs? I pictured the masses walking down Broadway and slicing Union Square with signs and protest song. I pictured my friend Patricia wearing all white and floating through the crowds with a child’s hand anchoring her to the ground. As the documentary began, I packed up my things and I shuffled down the side aisle and pushed through the door without looking back. As I bounded towards the train station, I deep voice came streaming towards me.


    I spun around. It was my professor, a towering man with huge mutton chop-style sideburns and young large eyes. His strength rooted in a childhood of cattle ranching, his wisdom nurtured by a family of labor activists. He’d traveled to China when he was in his early twenties to advise whole rural regions on the best farming practices for their soil, a prodigy expert in his field. And here he was nestled in a small liberal arts school staring at a wiley student with his large empathetic eyes.

    My words came out in urgent stammers and justifications

    “I just...I just can’t sit here in this room when there is so much happening on the streets and there is really something to fight for. Really.”

    “Oh, so you are going to the march. Go Kristina. I’ll be heading to the city for the second wave of the protest. Go!”

    I can’t remember if I thanked him or smiled or bowed slightly, but that exchange is one of the most vivid of all of college. I emailed him later that night to thank him and express my ideas about borders not being real, not understanding people’s illegalities according to racism, and many more sophomoric and angsty views. His response gave me pause, he acknowledged the the beauty of the march, but reminded me of the structural design at work. He reminded me of forced migrations and uprooted communities, the result of a new type of American imperialism, cheap labor imposed on communities in Mexico, the blood-stained hands of certain big American agriculture corporations. Josh’s words, his support, his ability to teach us about the political implications of words like “crisis,” all while taking a moment to belt songs rehearsed in his men’s chorus group the night before, reminded me: the political is not bound up in constant struggle, but rather, a passionate dance. We aren’t fighting for an end, a deadline, a product, an approval. We are out on the streets screaming, sweating in camps, pointing out microaggressions on public transport, so that we can keep moving, so our chains lay on the ground and eventually dissipate, letting our limbs vibrate and celebrate freely.


    This May Day everyone expected the Occupy Movement to implode into violent resurgence. When it didn’t, the media called the day of protest a failed endeavor, a weak turnout, an unsuccessful reprise after a triumphant fall. But for me, in the avoidance of tear gas and snide remarks from onlooking police, and I found an abundance of young families and teenagers holding strong. In Oscar Grant Plaza, where the March culminated into swaying hips and people rejoicing to the sound of pop rhythms, I bounced to a synth beat. We aren’t on the grind, rather we are rocking our hips, in a waltz with other sidewalk bodies. There isn’t a revolution until we can all dance, right Ms. Goldman?


    I climbed up the sidewalk towards my house, my own imaginary harness dragging behind me. And there before I collapsed onto my front steps, a sweet reminder: Miguel’s marionettes circled around each other in the evening breeze.
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