Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Arizona Equality Walkers - Soulforce Right to Marry Blog Update

From the Soulforce Right to Marry Arizona Campaign that is ongoing.

Entry by Alexey Bulokhov

I can hardly handle all the symbolism of today! We began our day in the beautiful Future Park in front of the Peoria Municipal Complex. We gathered by the Family statue in its main square and reflected on the nature of change aided by Ethan Nichtern's writings. In his book "One City" he talks about the end of counterculture and the dawn of interdependent society that integrates and vales all its aspects. Instead of rejecting what is, we are called to transform it. "A new world is possible and it looks just like this one," remarks Nichtern. Part of what attracts me to activism is this prophetic way of manifesting a better tomorrow today, living as if. We are walking 14 miles today transforming the communities of Peoria and Avondale with our intention, showing that a world of equality in Arizona would look very much like this.


Our second day on the road tests our abilities and spirit with grueling stretches of dirt road along the cotton fields and gravel embankment of irrigation canals that run through multiple housing developments. We also pass the Arizona Cardinals Stadium where Super Bowl was held last year. This is Extreme Sightseeing. It's taking longer than we planned, but pen on paper is always faster than feet on the road. We press on into the afternoon. Meg's friends swing by on their lunchbreak to cheer us on and bring more ice. Few people stop and ask what's up with the giant rainbow umbrellas. We tell them and give them flyers about Prop 102. So far, most people we've met (and it's as random a local sample as one could get) seem to be displeased with the idea that politicians would force people to vote again and again on something that has already been spoken for by Arizonans. One unlikely ally, an older trucker in line at a gas station summed it up best: "It don't matter what I think about the gay thing, but it's nobody's business deciding who should be marrying who. What's next? Congress gonna pick my wife, too?"


At one point, a car pulled up behind us and we wondered what kind of encounter is in store for us. A young man stepped out and said he noticed our umbrellas from the interstate and having seen the news on Saturday, thought we might be that group on a pilgrimage. He thanked us, picked up some flyers, and asked what else could he do to be involved in defeating Prop 102. We encouraged him to visit Equality Arizona and Arizona Together websites for ways to contribute time, effort and money this fall. There is just too much at stake to sit it out. Another idea from "One City" came to mind in light of this interaction. Once a vision of a better, more just society is seen by the people, by anyone - it is impossible to unsee. Then the choice to actively reach for that vision becomes as much a political stance as silently maintaining the oppressive status quo. Our umbrellas were seen by this young man and he made his choice. This is exactly how we hope to inspire others.


Group blister count: 4, but no major sunburn (yet?). The orange trees we see all along the way are not as fortunate!


Avondale is one of the fastest growing communities in the greater Phoenix area. Its population has been doubling every 10 years and is projected to reach 175 thousand by the year 2020. With so many people coming together from all over the world, it's a very diverse and dynamic town. We look forward to spending more time in its streets tomorrow on our 15 mile track to Glendale.


Sunday, August 10th, 2008 - Surprise to Peoria, AZ

Entry by Haven Herrin

We set off today for our first step on the 96 mile journey. It is hot here by 9am, and it tops 100 degrees before noon. We woke up early, put on our first layer of sunscreen, and drove to the Unitiarian Universalist church of Surprise. We got a wonderful send-off from a congregation whose denomination has been supportive of so many justice issues, including the one we walk for, for decades. As a side note, the piano accompanist during the service was also 96 years old.


I spoke about community - our community of 7, the church community that welcomes us, the dozen or so communities we will reach by the end of this walk - and how one small group of people can cultivate a set of values and spirit that transforms the larger society. As I walked down the road, crunching on the gravel, I looked ahead at the rainbow umbrellas of my friends and saw the joy, the color, and the peace that we represent. The seven of us are a wonderful community!


The church members and the walkers each tied a rainbow ribbon to the tree in the courtyard and set off. The Reverend Walt Wieder and his wife Janet also joined us for the first couple of miles. We will be marking our path through Phoenix with ribbons through Friday.


I stopped to take photos of dry, curling mud and lone, tall palm trees. The geography, the cacti, and the very dirt of Arizona are fascinating to me. To answer the obvious questions: yes, it's sweaty and hard. But, yes, it's doable. Our van follows us and we stop every couple of miles to alternate water and sports drinks and eat fruit. It is also a very long day: we ended our 12-mile segment at 8:30. Some very good friends had already cooked dinner for us and cheered us home with milkshakes and cards.


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