One Girls Dream
Today was the first day I was actually terrified. I get death threats pretty consistently and I envision my death similar to a mob hit where some random stranger so enraged walks up behind and shoots me in the back of the head. I think about this all day long. It’s pretty unnerving honestly, but I just pray it’s quick. When it’s all said and done will I be one of those names on the signs you see marching down the streets and yelled by protestors into the air or will I still be that ghost that the world didn’t know. Will I end up dying before the world knew the real story I was working on behind the scenes. My death, though, is not what terrified me today.
As I walked into an event before the camera was turned on, I was instantly greeted with hate. I’m recognized not because of any journalistic greatness, or exposing a corrupt system, but for being an outspoken and unfiltered voice that nobody actually listens to. People don’t actually hear what I say. They tell their version which is nothing close to what I actually said. They see me and think they know me. They repeat words I have never actually spoken. A journalist friend of mine would tell me later they didn’t realize how much I was hated and that he very quickly realized I was the wrong person to stand next to at any event. I laughed and said it probably wasn’t a good idea to be near me, but just make sure that camera is ready if something goes wrong.
Once the camera is turned on, I notice dozens of people walk passed filming me or taking pictures of my press credentials. I can only imagine what amount of hate is about to come. I’m consistently shoved or intentionally bumped into while quietly trying to film. As each speaker takes to the stage I look around and see the masses buying into rhetoric that doesn’t have an ounce of factual evidence to back it up. But they wholeheartedly believe it does. I watch as the crowd gets more and more fueled with hate and anger over something that doesn’t exist. I listened as speakers incited violence and called for civil war and the crowd cheered louder. I listened to how speakers condemned the government for the last four years but chanted in approval for the same government they just chastised. I shook my head wondering if they just heard the contradiction, but knowing full well they didn’t. When we go to war who are we fighting, the government or each other? I watched the crowd make a hero of a white criminal in Kenosha who killed two people, chanting the “Kenosha Kid is a Hero, let’s get him out of jail” while they demonized protestors as scumbags. Are they seriously going to ignore the facts that this white hero illegally purchased a gun, illegally carried this gun openly in the streets and then killed two people while engaged in criminal activity? Are they seriously going to ignore that law enforcement assisted in this tragedy? They demonize the names held up on signs claiming those are names of criminals yet here they are praising a criminal as a hero. Regardless of what side you’re on, no one should be ok with this. How do you ignore the fact he was a criminal and cast blame on those you know nothing about? I was there. I stood on that street and watched this unfold. I saw the fear in people’s eyes that night. People are literally picking and choosing which facts to believe instead of all of them. They write their own narratives only fueling their hate more. If you’re a white criminal on the right who kills anyone on the left you’re a hero.
As the crowd became more enraged the owner of the venue interrupted and informed everyone that the city Health Department was there and everyone needed to sit down and put masks on or the event would be shut down. I watched a former County Sheriff influence the crowd to not comply and stood by as the owner was attacked by the mob. When the event was shut down the gatherers took to the streets. The hypocritical nature of what I saw baffled me. This side consistently complains about protestors in the streets yet here they are doing the same thing. They consistently complain about protestors blocking intersections and traffic yet here they are yelling “too bad”, “if they can do it so can we”. They consistently complain about situations we see in a riot when it comes to looting yet here they were saying “we should go rob the liquor stores”. They consistently complain about signs, flags and banners, yelling, disrupting, making people uncomfortable and here they were doing the very thing they speak out against.
As the group took to the streets and headed for the intersection they were met by counter protestors. I can’t even begin to describe the tension in the air. I don’t even have the proper words to describe the amount of hate and racism that I witnessed. It’s these events that make me feel the most uncomfortable. It’s these events that are the most dangerous to film. It’s these events that trigger me and I have a difficult time decompressing later on. As I moved in and out of the crowd dozens more would film me, take pictures of my press credentials and try to block me from filming by waving flags in front of the camera, and poke me with flag poles. I was hit with flag poles and grabbed by people throughout the crowd. Again I would be shoved from behind and multiple people tried to knock my camera out of my hand. I would be yelled at for being part of an organization I have no affiliation with. While filming a counter protestor I was assaulted for filming a person I wasn’t even filming. It was made very clear that I was not welcome at this event. I was cussed at for not being real media while they denounced main stream media for spreading lies. So who is real media now? I’m confused.
I watched gatherers provoke, incite and even engage in violence towards counter protestors then run to law enforcement to have them arrested when they engaged. When local law enforcement stood by and did nothing, the gatherers angrily denounced law enforcement while still flying Blue Lives Matter flags. It was comical to me because it’s always an argument that gets thrown around when protestors chant “Defund The Police”. Here the other side is now doing the same exact thing. Way to be original. I watched as this former sheriff who incited this aggression coward away any time he was confronted by counter protestors. This is historically typical of leaders who spew hateful rhetoric.
I witnessed both sides today react out of hate for one another and individuals from both sides engage in violence towards one another. Because of my thirty day Facebook ban I was not able to live stream the event like I normally would have. I had to record it instead, unfortunately not to its entirety like it would have been. I looked around and saw the beginning of a civil war. I looked around and saw two sides that wanted nothing more than to kill each other. I watched children hold various flags and wondered if they knew what the flag represented and what meaning it told the other side. I wondered if these children knew why all these adults were screaming hateful things at each other. I was literally terrified because this is how it starts. This war is starting because there is so much false rhetoric being put out to the public and they are buying into it. This is how people from both sides will get murdered. This is where that random person comes up behind me and shoots me in the back of the head. This is what terrified me. A sheriffs words rang through my head over and over again. “We need to be aggressive, not lose our souls over it but come close and let God forgive us”.
Since I couldn’t live stream like I normally do, I began to engage with people in the crowd asking questions. I was curious to know the proof they had stored away that led to their finality in their thoughts. The more people I spoke with the more I realized how lost they really were. These people are seriously going to kill each other because of something they heard and believe it to be true. One person I spoke to within the gatherers spoke openly about BLM the Organization and stated that all of the counter protestors were part of that organization. I proceeded to ask what proof he had that they were in fact part of the organization he despised. He couldn’t give me any other than he just knew. The possibility that this group was also not in support of the organization but instead might just be people of color who were saying that their life mattered wasn’t a real possibility to him. His mind was made up. More and more people I spoke to had their minds made up about each of the counter protestors that they had no factual evidence to support anything that was coming out of their mouths. None of it made sense.
I walked up and listened to a white husband and wife engaged in a calm conversation with a black male who did nothing but shout and cut them off when they tried to make a point. This couple patiently waited until he was done shouting and then tried to engage again to have understanding only to be accused of things they didn’t actually do and be shouted at again. I closed my eyes and shook my head. It’s these moments that go by where such an incredible teaching moment could have been had and yet it fell on deaf ears again. I couldn’t help but to think this white couple would now go home having the same views and beliefs they had because the stereotype came true. The story they would tell would be truth instead of them having a conversation that may have made them think twice about their own beliefs. Another opportunity missed for sides to engage in discourse that gives them a better understanding and appreciation for what is happening.
As I was shutting the camera off a young girl approached me from within the gatherers side and proceeded to tell me she knew who I was but couldn’t remember my name, and she respected what I did. As she continued I wondered if she actually knew who she was talking to or if she confused me with another streamer. She proceeded to tell me she saw my videos from Kenosha and was now watching my YouTube Channel. Her parents spoke to me as well. I still couldn’t help to think they really did not know who I was. She explained how she wanted to be a journalist.
At this moment everything went quiet for me. The hate that filled the streets was no longer relevant. The beauty that I always speak of came out of nowhere. Here it was again in the form of a child who wanted to hear validation that her dream could be obtained. I paid no attention to anything else around me and focused only on my conversation with her. She explained how she wanted to go into the military and be a journalist and asked if I had advice for her journey. I proceeded to tell her I thought her path was amazing and that the world needed more female journalists and even more female streamers showing the truth. She asked why I did what I do and wanted to know how to pick subject matter that was relevant.
I made her look at the crowd that was so engrossed in their own hate towards one another. I pointed out that each person here had a story to tell. I pointed out that counter protestors were so angry because their voices were not being heard. I pointed to the other side showing hatred and explained this side would never hear the other sides voice because they don’t believe they are human. Look at how both sides are not listening to each other, look at how both sides hate each other right now. They will never hear each other’s voice or story because they are angry. Right now they want to hurt each other and somewhere down the line they are going to because of things that were said today. Somewhere in all of that you have to write what is really happening and hope that someone will read it and sit back and think why am I so angry? Is this hatred justified? You have to make the world understand from your eyes what you see because you’re not on either side. You have to somehow make others see the truth that they don’t see. You have to somehow make the reader feel what you feel so they can relate to the story you’re telling. You have to somehow make every one of these people standing here screaming at each other understand they are mad because they have all been lied to. If you can do that, you change the world. If you want to be a journalist you start right now, you write about everything, you take pictures of everything that can tell a story just with the picture, you take video of everything. You keep writing until you find a subject you are passionate about and then you focus on that.
She asked what I was passionate about in what I write. I explained that my passion was people’s civil rights. No matter who’s rights were being violated or who’s voice wasn’t being heard those were the type of stories I wanted to cover. I’m passionate about people. I’m passionate in finding the beauty in all of this ugliness. I’m passionate is making sure the truth is being told. Right now it’s counter protestors voices who aren’t being heard and are being silenced. One day this side (as I pointed to the gatherers) will have their rights violated because they helped silence others and they will cry out and hope someone hears their voice. While others ignore them because of the things they did today, I will be there to cover their story. You write and you don’t stop. You ignore the bad that will come with the job and you focus on the beauty of it all. You don’t quit, you keep going no matter what. You always have to tell the truth no matter how ugly the truth may be. I asked her if she understood and she smiled and shook her head yes.
Her parents asked me about college degrees and where to post their daughters writings. In the midst of all the chaos happening around me something that actually mattered to one family was their child’s future and how their dream could be obtained. We spoke for another several minutes.
As the conversation came to a close they thanked me and we shook hands, the background noise came back. The hate filled the air. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath and turned the camera on again. I moved through the crowd and smiled under my face shield knowing I just witnessed something beautiful, and none of you saw it because you were all filled with ugliness. All I thought about was a conversation I had with a little girl and hoped she would follow her dream. I hoped that no matter what subject she chose to cover that she would not have to endure the same things I’ve gone through. I hoped she would never question did she choose the right path. Out of all this chaos a little girl smiled and hopefully began her journey of story telling. Hopefully, where we have all failed, this little girl will change the world with her words.
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