Terribly shy, my pink dress and I appeared at my very first rally ever, on April 20, aka 420. A policeman on a bicycle smiled at me, as I walked around the Washington Monument, trying to find the group I was to march with.
Mr. Henry Hemp appeared, jumping around in his green hat, a leaf, he was so enthusiastic, I admired his energy. I was introduced to him and he was so nice to me.
Suddenly, Dana A. appeared, and I couldn't believe it!! And Marie as well. It felt good to meet some online friends in real life. It was surreal but really cool. "Stop hiding your eyes with your hat!" I was told, "you have such pretty eyes!"
I was clinging to my poster of Peter. "We Remember Peter McWilliams, 1949-2000" it said. "Who is that?" several people asked. I couldn't believe they did not know who he was, and still be in this Movement, but then again, just two short years ago I didn't know either!
"You're such a pretty girl!" I was told, and it made me feel shyer. I kept pulling my hat down over my eyes.
As the group grew, we moved down the hill, and I couldn't believe it, two men, before my eyes, were arrested for possession of pot. One of the men kept looking right at me and I looked back at him, quite upset. I wish I could have hugged him. They were taken away, and Mr. Hemp calmed the crowd as we began our march.
Oh boy! I had never been to a rally or a march before, and I got to be right up front, sort of. Talisha from Hempfest was walking to my left. We carried a banner that kept getting the best of us by blowing the wrong way. We passed by people who snapped photos of us. A security guard gave us a thumbs up. A bus driver did too. Waves of emotion overcame me. A nice guy to my left asked, "What chant should we start?" And I shyly responded, "Legalize it Now!" And the whole group started chanting, I couldn't believe it, they picked MY chant? Then I came up with "Free the Weed" and "It's Just Pot". The guy to my left was great. I wish I could remember his name.
It was the neatest thing, being escorted by a police car through the streets. I wondered, was this similar to what the protesters in the sixties experienced?
We finally arrived at Lafayette Park.
There were a few speakers before me. I marveled at their courage, conviction, and got a little more nervous.
Finally I was to begin and I nervously walked up the stairs, but I was flanked by two strong and sweet women, Ms. Rebecca and Ms. Marie. Ms. Marie agreed to hold my Peter Poster as I spoke. I took the microphone and trembled. I informed the crowd how shy I was, and the first row of women yelled out "You're beautiful!" I felt like the colours of my dress: a blushing pink, a ghostly white.
I again informed the crowd, that I was shy, but "A wise man once wrote, comfort zones are expanded through discomfort" and I felt the crowd's laugh.
Then I began speaking, not in these exact words..Peter McWilliams was an amazing man..I just discovered him two years ago, his book 'You Can't Afford the Luxury of a Negative Thought' cured my depression...Peter was an amazing author-New York Times best-seller, he published over 40 books, even before the Internet was cool....his poetry could make anyone gush...he was always trying to help people, he helped disabled people learn computers, he tried to help people heal from loss, "How to Survive the Loss of a Love" has sold over 3 million copies...that's a lot of broken hearts getting healed..he went through his own depression and helped others by co-writing books on depression and St. John's Wort.." and then I began the sad part...In March 1996 Peter was diagnosed with both AIDS and Cancer...he found that medicinal marijuana was the only thing keeping his meds down...
Suddenly out of nowhere some man looked right at me, and screamed, "You're STUPID!" That was really hard for me to hear, as I have been teased a lot in my life. I wanted to stop, I remember saying to Ms. Rebecca, under my breath, "I can't do this," and she told me I could keep going. "I'M NOT STUPID, I LOVE PETER!!!" I yelled right back at him. I couldn't believe that came out of my mouth! Where did that strength come from? I felt like Peter had visited me, perhaps
spoken through me at that moment, because that angry man kept ranting and I suddenly spoke louder, I felt like I was yelling, I got so choked up talking about how sick Peter was, how the government denied him medicinal marijuana, how he died at the young age of 50, way too soon and how I will never get to meet or thank him or hug him and how unfair that is. Then I told the crowd I am a non-smoker who supports legalization, decriminalization. The ranting man left, thank goodness, and I felt better. "I am more of an archivist, not an anarchist!" I said, and then realized I screwed up and meant to say "activist." The crowd laughed along with me. I brought up other names: I said we need to free Mr. Emery who "has become a Dad to me," the crowd cheered. And Free Mr. (woops, Reverend) Eddy Lepp; the crowd cheered more, and Mr. Rick Simpson, who should "be allowed to do his thing." They cheered the loudest now. Then I asked the crowd if they could do me a favour. I said, I think Peter's Mama is watching this, and I call her Mama too. On the count of three, say HI MAMA! One, two, three, and the whole crowd yelled, HI MAMA! and I yelled I love you Mama, I love you Peter!!! And that was that.
I came off stage, wanting to throw up, I felt like I had spent every strand of energy I had within me.
I was embraced by several nice people, including "Kush" who was one of the chief organizers. Throughout the rest of the day, Kush kept mentioning my speech from the stage-how much I inspired him. He had embraced me when I got offstage and he made me cry with his wonderful words...
Some man came up to me, "I suffer from depression, thank you so much for speaking about that!" and another person, and another. One man told me his neck had been paralyzed, and just the title of Peter's book, "You Can't Afford the Luxury of a Negative Thought," helped him through a painful recovery.
People came up to me throughout the day that had not heard me speak. They asked me who was Peter. They wanted to know who this handsome guy was. After all I had his photo blown up to 18 X 24 size.
This experience was so amazing for me. I love speaking out and about Peter. I'd love to do it again. And I thank that heckler, because he showed me I have the strength inside me to speak.