Flipping Tables 

April 7, 2015

When Brigitta mentioned the Monday gathering to protest building a new juvenile detention center, I had no idea what it might entail.Thoughts of picket signs, yelling, screaming and possibly throwing vegetables came to mind. I was intimidated but resolute.The reality was easier for me, as a first time protester, to handle. There were signs, and some of us did end up tossing nickels, but after the opening remarks from Brandon and Jenn, I felt less worried.

While I question the penitentiary system as a whole, which prompted my involvement in turning the tables, the specifics of the Seattle situation engaged me even further as a young man of mixed heritage. By the time anyone spoke, I had a twofold purpose: to fight the penal system as an ineffective and harmful tool for society and engage and fight the institutionalized racism that is a large part of it. I was inspired. Even more inspiring, was that so many people, both secular and religious, came together to fight.

After the opening and a brief prayer, we proceeded to the lobby of Howard S. Wright, a construction firm with plans to build the new detention center, to flip the tables on them.Luckily, their executives allowed us to demonstrate in their lobby, as was the plan. Three pastors spoke against racism and the penal system, and to the world we hope to create through a society of love and faith.  

We also set up a table, in preparation for our table flipping, on which we placed messages of love, faith and growth. We tossed coins on the table to represent the silver that Jesus scorned in the Temple. After the final pastor spoke, together we flipped the table. We flipped it on HSW and the system, something that I, as an artist and as a person, appreciate.

People need to be challenged: their perceptions, status quos and beliefs.Only through being challenged can they, and we, grow. Only then can we discard old ideas that cause negativity and pain and embrace new ideas with more positive outcomes, or reaffirm our faith through adversity. That is what we did for the people in that office and that is what we can do for ourselves.

Racism, within the penal system and without, is bigger than any of us. And as long as we keep flipping tables, we can grow and help others do the same. –Charles McCall

photo: Alex Garner

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