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As I approached Washington Square Park, I felt an intense blend of energy comprised of passion, community, and hostility. Once I entered the park and joined the thousands who congregated under the Arch, I realized that this was going to be defining day. Like many, I don’t approve of the incidences of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, as both situations shouldn’t have resulted in two deceased individuals. Race, obviously, is a fiery, underlying theme and as a minority, I’m tired of all the unnecessary bullsh*t that minorities have to endure. The other side of the controversy involves police brutality. I respect law enforcement because they have an extremely hard job of ensuring that we behave morally as a society, however, there are those few who abuse their power (with minorities occasionally being on the receiving end) and taint the police’s general reputation.

I’m not an activist; I’m just a person who’s frustrated with how things have been and would like to see them change for the better. Several years ago, I made it a personal and professional goal to impact culture (I’m trying to figure out what that really means). Getting my MBA has made me confident that I have a realistic shot to do so, and now it’s actually time to take some gradual steps in that direction.

I attended the Million March alone because I wanted to fully absorb the day’s events without having to worry about anything else. Washington Square Park was a gumbo of demographics in terms of race, age, and gender. There were Blacks, Whites, Asian, teens, students, parents who brought that their young children, the elderly. With all the talks of racial and hierarchical separation, I couldn’t sense it there. The excitement at the meet up grew as the crowd engaged in chants, while raising signage that exemplified the frustrations developed over the last several weeks. Eventually, it was time to take the streets.

The crowd slowly filed onto 5th Ave and headed uptown. The chants continued as people were more than ready to flood Manhattan, but I stayed mainly silent. Instead, I observed those around me, witnessing how serious and meaningful this Million March was to them. I also read of many of the signs around me and to be honest, most of them made me a disappointed in society.

I initially planned to only walk up to 14th Street, as it was cold and I get a bit claustrophobic when it comes to large crowds. However, I ran into some Stern friends and decided to give it a few more blocks. When the crowd turned on 6th Ave, I decided it was a good point to exit. While I was grabbing coffee to warm my soul at a nearby Starbucks, I was astonished with how humongous the March had become. The crowd grew to become about 25,000 deep, stretching almost 15 blocks. This was New York City coming together. I sipped my coffee while watching the March pass, and ultimately, the energy was too convincing and I rejoined.

The March went up to 32nd Street and turned back around, heading to NYPD headquarters in downtown. Along the route, I enjoyed seeing the reaction of bystanders as they saw this massive sea of people heading their direction. People climbed onto construction rafters and light poles to get an aerial view of the spectacle, capturing footage on their smart phones and cameras. Some even joined the March. At one point, we intersected the dreaded Santa Con. It was an obvious contrast of groups that had different priorities. On one side, you had those trying to push for positive social change, while on the other, you have people dressed in cheap Santa suits trying to find their next cheap drink. I’m aware that there are people who could care less about the March, and that’s their preference, but the Santa Con folks just looked “out of place” (in kinder terms). It’s just different priorities for some. In any city I reside it, I make an effort to be one with the community and culture, and I felt as a NYC resident, I had to be part of this March. Personally, I get really annoyed with those transplants that move here to drink and brunch this city dry, without respecting the culture and history of New York. There’s a reason why the city is gradually losing its character.

Eventually, I completed the entire route. Thousands braved the cold and marched several miles to exemplify that this is a matter that a significant number of people care about. If the Million March doesn’t spark some conversations with the decision makers, I honestly don’t know what else is there to do. I hope those who organized the March have a game plan of demands and initiatives because this is where some protests falter. You commit so much effort to rally, but no call to action at the end. At the end of the day, I believe that the March brought further attention to a controversial subject, but as a society, we still need the majority to believe and act better.

Millions March NYC

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Rex Pham

Originally from the Bay Area, who then moved to Los Angeles, then out to New York City. NYU Stern MBA c/o 2014. Inspired by the grind of NYC to create something that has value. Lover of all things digital, culture, and brand strategy.