The Tipping Point

paddle out 2020 rockaway black lives matter

Last week, I felt uneasy about my column on chives, given all that’s going on. I needed some time to process. I ended up rewriting this column for this week three times. It just doesn’t feel okay for me to write about gardening or cooking right now.

Our whole nation is in crisis. The killing of George Floyd on May 25th and the conversation about the resulting protests for justice and equality has entered every household in America, including mine. These hard discussions often take place around the dinner table. So while off “tomato topic” I want to share my feelings here.

I feel a heaviness. I feel angry. I feel confused, anxious and guilty. I feel an urgency to educate myself on the Black Lives Matter movement.

My brother-in-law James Walsh wrote something that resonated with me and I couldn’t say it any better than he did:

“Thank God for young people, man. They’re the ones who are going to keep us moving forward when so many things conspire to set us back.

In the middle of a pandemic they’re taking to the streets, risking their health and their lives to demand justice. To be the voice for the voiceless and the power for the powerless.

There is so much to worry about in the current state of our country, but when I see them, I see hope. Progress is made when society reaches a tipping point on important issues, and when your baseline is one of equality (LBGTQ, racial, economic, etc), you’re already so far ahead in terms of being the driving force for change.

They [the kids] already see the nonsense that divides this country. They do not need to be taught about the greed of the financial industry, the threat of the military-industrial complex, or the danger of police brutality. Those are a given, and someday they will be in the halls of power, taking these lessons to create a more just society.”

When I was a kid, I knew nothing of protesting or injustice in my life. I just read about the wrongs of our country in social studies class. And who knows if what I was reading was even true.

My feelings of hope were ignited when I saw the young kids protesting two week ago at the peaceful vigil for Geoge Floyd at Beach 95th street and the boardwalk. I was inspired by their outspokenness, courage and knowledge.

Over the weekend I went to the paddle out for George Floyd organized by Black Surfing Rockaway (@black_surfing_rockaway). It was held at 9am in the morning at beach 109th street. I rode my bike on the boardwalk and realized immediately the crowds of surfers and people on bikes in black were all headed in the same direction. The assembly on the beach was larger than I expected. It’s hard to judge a group of this size, but it had to be more than 1,000 people. The feeling of community unification and hope was present on the sand and in the sun, as words were spoken by the Black Surfing Rockaway organization before the paddle out.

It felt amazing to stand with friends, neighbors and other like minded Rockaway folks in solidarity as the surfers took to the water with flowers in hand. Prayer like chants and claps came and went like the waves in the ocean. I was with my friend Erin Silver, owner of Zingara Vintage. We started to cry. It was that moving. Change can start small, locally in our community. Be the change! No justice, no peace!

Previously  published in

tagged in community, rockaway