Welcome to the ARIZONA EQUALITY WALKERS blog!
Friday August 15, 2008 – Mesa to Tempe to the State Capitol
Entry by Delfin Bautista
Today our walk began at Mesa City Hall and we journeyed to Tempe City Hall, Phoenix City Hall, and than to the State Capitol Building. Our walk covered a total of 18 miles. We started the day by centering ourselves, reminding ourselves that we are not alone on our walk. We are walking for many people within Arizona and from various places throughout the country. Our walk continues in the tradition of many who have gone before us—Abraham, the people of Israel, Mary, Jesus, the Apostles, Buddha, Francis of Assisi, Mother Teresa, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Peace Pilgrim and John Francis, the PlanetWalker. We walk in good company for the affirmation and celebration of all.
Throughout our walk we had many supporters, from people who walked with us to others who cheered us on with honks from their car horns. Upon our arrival in Tempe, we were greeted by city officials including City Manager Charlie Meyer and Rosa Inchausti, manager of the Diversity Office. They were interested in our experience thus far and told us about the groundbreaking efforts that the City of Tempe has taken to be inclusive of all families. Not only was the conversation refreshing, but so too were the water and snacks they provided—they gave us energy booster for the last 11 mile trek.
We received another expression of support and motivation during lunch, when our waitress Lara shared her enthusiasm for our walk and told us that she and her girlfriend were thinking of going to California to get married. She shared that both their families have been very supportive and that their children participate in pride events with them.
The last few hours were challenging—we had to walk fast and our feet were killing us—but they were also among the most exciting. For our last mile we were joined by friends and supporters who walked with us to the State Capitol. Representatives from the Mayor’s office welcomed us for our last break to rehydrate and cool off. Then members of Equality Arizona and Soul Purpose AZ joined usl. Soul Purpose is a one year old grass-roots volunteer-run organization dedicated to serving the growing need for resources and visibility for the LGBT communities of color in the Phoenix metro area.
Before beginning that last stretch, we held hands in front of the Phoenix City Hall to center ourselves, remembering all those who are walking for and all who are accompanying us through their prayers. We then walked the mile to the Capitol Building, joining hands again as we walked onto the grass.
Whether we had walked 96 miles or 96 feet, we completed this pilgrimage together. At the Capitol, Meg led us in the tying of rainbow ribbons to mark our final stop on this long, sweaty, hard, blister-causin’, calorie-burning, mind-blowing, conversation-starting endeavor for marriage equality.
The effects of our actions this week extended into the homes of Equality Walkers. Not all of our family members have been fully supportive of this campaign; however, the experience has opened the door for honest conversations to take place.
As I reflect on this day of pilgrimage for equality, I feel confident that we have left not only rainbow ribbons and footprints, but also good will that will ripple into affirmation of all families here in Arizona and throughout the country. We may never know the impact our rainbow umbrellas, ribbons, smiles, and testimony and witness have had; perhaps someone who saw us walking or saw our media interviews or found one of our colorful ribbons will be comforted that seven young adults braved the Arizona heat for the equality and celebration of all marriages and families—it may even motivate and inspire them to find ways to continue in la lucha (the struggle). With each step, we planted seeds that will be harvested by others and will continue to grow as our society comes to understand the value of affirming the loving, covenanted relationships of its lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender members. As the Rev. Martin Luther King once said, “We shall overcome because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” Through the efforts of ordinary people like my fellow Equality Walkers, we can see Dr. King’s vision to its next stage of fulfillment.
Wednesday, August 13th, 2008 – Glendale to Phoenix, AZ
Entry by CJ Minott
We started this morning at the Glendale City Hall with another conversation about why we were walking, each person remembering a specific person whom they were walking for. Then we began our journey past the beautiful local shops where he had eaten lunch the day before. From Glendale we were headed to the Church of the Beatitudes, a lovely United Church of Christ congregation where we had lunch and the most amazing cherries for desert. We were greeted warmly by Pastor Nancy Elsenheimer and several community members. The Church of the Beatitudes is a progressive congregation in the Central Phoenix area with a long history of supporting of the LGBT community and other important social issues.
From the church we headed down Central Avenue, a street of great historical and cultural significance to the Phoenix valley. Along Central we were able to stop at its many churches to give them some information about out walk, some of which offered us cold water and some time in their air conditioned environments. We also stopped at local LGBT supportive retailers, various popular coffeeshops and some independent media outlets to leave some information about the future of marriage equality in Arizona.
Along Central we had conversations with many different people in a busy downtown environment, and at the same time see the new Phoenix light rail which will someday help decrease pollution and traffic problems. Members of the Central United Methodist Church cheered us on by ringing the church bells and offering us cold Sonic slushies. The church was only a few short miles to the Phoenix City Hall where we were greeted by water fountains and another symbolic statue of family. The presence of these statures at almost every city hall we’ve visited so far reminds us how important this walk is. It reminds us that we are not walking just for our selves, but for the many Arizona families which are not yet fully recognized, supported and protected. It is my hope that someday soon they too can be memorialized by a bronze statue of their own at a city hall in Arizona.
Onwards to Scottsdale & Mesa tomorrow!
Tuesday, August 12th, 2008 – Avondale to Glendale, AZ
Day three of our six-day journey was a relatively quiet one for the Equality Walkers, but it was very productive in setting the pace for the rest of our week. We began our third day on the road from Avondale City Hall, a beautiful structure serving a community that is growing quickly as the Phoenix metro area continues to expand outwards. We arrived at City Hall just after 7:00, and we had begun walking by 7:30. In this weather, it is best to start as early as possible: walking in ninety-degree temperatures is a breeze compared to the soaring triple digits we encounter later in the day. Avondale resembles many of cities on the outskirts of the Valley of the Sun: it is a hodgepodge of fields and planned subdivisions situated along the interstate. The walk through this landscape was relaxing, and we entertained ourselves by telling stories and singing showtunes and spirituals along the way.
Walking in the heat for miles on end is, of course, very strenuous, and it proved somewhat difficult to maintain the pace we’d intended. We had planned on finishing our fifteen-mile trek for the day by 1:00, and the task we’d set for ourselves was daunting in light of how often we had to stop for water and Gatorade to keep ourselves from getting dehydrated. In order to move more quickly without risking our health, we decided to stop every two miles to change walkers. Some people chose to walk the entire distance (fifteen miles); others switched off between walking and riding. This way, everyone’s needs were met, and we were able to move along at a faster pace.
We also were able to streamline the process of our pit stops, which served us well in the days to come. Along the way to Glendale, we continued to encounter pedestrians and cars that either honked in support or were interested in learning what we were doing. We enjoyed talking to all these people; after all, it is ordinary voters who will determine the trajectory marriage equality will take in Arizona.
We also took hundreds of pictures along the way. It’s amazing how many interesting things there are to see along city streets. Driving, one rarely has time to look around and notice it all, but part of our pilgrimage experience has been about simply taking the time to quiet down, observe, and reflect.
We managed to arrive at Glendale City Hall mid-afternoon, tired but ever enthusiastic. Glendale is known for its sports arenas, home of both the NHL’s Phoenix Coyotes and the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals. Last year, the town hosted the Super Bowl. It also has a lovely historic downtown area filled with cute little antique shops—Glendale prides itself on being the antique capital of Arizona—restaurants, and historic buildings. We were thrilled to arrive at City Hall, located in the middle of the downtown historic district, and we ate lunch together at Lenny’s, a long-established, award-winning burger joint located along Glendale Avenue. It’s amazing how wonderful a milkshake can taste after more than five hours in the sun. Our day ended at 2:30, and we were blessed with a relatively free afternoon to rest in preparation for the longer days ahead. Having completed three days out of six, we felt ready to conquer whatever was coming next.
Monday, August 11th, 2008 – Peoria to Avondale, AZ
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. 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 dealing with the potential consequences of 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.
Saturday, August 9th, 2008 – Phoenix, AZ
Entry by Meg Sneed
Tomorrow morning seven young adults will lace up their tennis shoes and embark on a journey that many think is crazy, walking 96 miles through the streets of Arizona, in August. But the purpose is to be bold, to challenge ourselves and others on the issue of marriage equality. We each have our own personal stories and reasons for walking, for wanting to help Arizonans understand Proposition 102 (again! Our great state has already said NO to this question in 2006!) On Friday night we came together as a group, we spent the night getting to know each other and discussing the logistics of the route.
Today we spent doing some more training with the help of Julie Roberts of Equality Arizona, Representative Kyrsten Sinema, and Phoenix Police Officer Tambra Williams. While planning this campaign and going into it tomorrow we have felt supported and embraced by the local community which has helped us to put our best foot on the pavement, so to speak. Will walking 96 miles be challenging? Yes. But it has been challenging for Arizonans to go 96 years without equality. Will there be moments where we are tired and exhausted? Sure. But it is with our community’s support that we will be able to continue to take the next step, to shake the next hand, reach the next heart so in November we can all stand united in saying YES to marriage equality eventually here.
Tonight we held a meet and greet at the Willow House where the community was able meet with the seven Equality Walkers and wish us well before we begin our journey. Over the course of the week we will be gathering amazing stories, and blisters. We would love to have you and your friends to come out and walk with us on any of the days, or come to our closing event on Saturday August 16th at Steele Indian School Park.
On a personal note, thanks to my amazing family and friends, it is your love and support that have nourished the activist spirit inside of me. Your courage and words of wisdom have always given me guidance in my times of need, your stories inspire me to speak up, thanks just for being you. -Meg Sneed