There’s a quote from Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night that’s become quite relevant since the election: “Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon ’em.” It’s always been fairly popular, most likely because there are many people who appreciate the idea that somewhere inside them lurks a person that just needs some greatness to find ’em.
Well, America, it’s 2017. If nothing else, it might be safe to say that we have found our greatness. Indeed, it could even be argued that it has been thrust upon us.
But greatness, like many things, can mean different things to different people. Some people choose to express it by posting ethnonationalist Pepe memes on Twitter. Ana Breton, on the other hand, is organizing La Marcha de Mayo, a 10,000 person strong march celebrating the lives and contributions of Latinx immigrants to the United States.
“I just felt this anger and needed to do something about it,” she said. “I couldn’t be sad. I had to do something.”
For Breton, who was born in Mexico City, Trump’s call for a border wall that would restrict migration into the United States was a tangible threat that would actively hurt her community. After attending the Women’s March on Washington, she started looking for immigration marches or rallies in New York City that she could join, but found none. For most people, this would have been the end of the story.
Ana, instead, collided with her moment of greatness.
“It was spontaneous,” she said. “Just: ‘I’m going to create a march for this!’”
Within three days, 10,000 people had RSVP’d on her Facebook event, each responding to the same urgency to take action. Breton, who works as a digital producer for Full Frontal with Samantha Bee and has never organized before, had to google both “How to hold a March” and “How to hold a Rally.”
“I found out I needed to get a permit, but that’s actually quite easy to get,” she said. Harder is keeping track of the emails – she had to create a new account just for the march.
Immediately, offers of help came pouring in from all different types of people, almost none of them professional activists. Of the 30 main volunteers who meet on weekends to plan La Marcha, there are three high school teachers, a holistic coach, a makeup artist, and a mom and daughter team.
One of the volunteers, a graphic designer named Isabela Montalvo, contacted Breton after the election to say that she wanted to put her talents to good use for social justice causes. She’s since designed all the social media buttons and flyers for La Marcha, devoting services that Breton emphasized could have gone towards paying professionals-for-hire.
“The movement has been taken on by regular people,” Breton said. “The best thing that I was able to do was give someone a platform to do what they love.”
Greatness: small and banal, and all the more amazing for the simplicity of 30 people realizing that they could do something important, that they might have been the ones they were waiting for.
These volunteers have already managed to put together an art show that raised $4,000 towards the cost of the rally, and their efforts were eventually noticed by Mixteca, a nonprofit organization with prior experience holding marches and rallies. Mixteca became their sponsor, and any money not used at the march will be donated to Mixteca to help with their mission of empowering Mexican and Latin-American immigrants in New York City.
The march itself promises to look a little different from the ones we’ve so far seen on CNN – a celebration of the community rather than a true protest against the Trump administration. There will be music played by local bands along the route as well as an art show displaying the work of Latinx immigrants, which will hopefully mitigate the sometimes awkward patches of silence seen at past marches.
“We get to shape what we want this march to look like,” Breton said. “One thing we’re trying to do with the rally is to show off voices and give platforms to voices we haven’t heard before.”
And here’s where it gets even more interesting: when most of your team has never done something like this before, your rally doesn’t end up looking like any of the others. Unburdened by the cynicism and instincts born of years of experience, the volunteers at La Marcha just asked each other who was someone they really wanted to hear speak and invited them.
“There’s usually lots of politicians and celebrities [at rallies like this], and no offense to them, but we didn’t really want to do something like that,” Breton said. “Lot of people are scared and hiding because of how they’re perceived and we’re trying to bring out their voices.”
In this case, that means reflecting in their lineup that there isn’t one type of immigrant, or one type of Latinx-American. Groups highlighted include Afro-Latinx and Muslim-Latinx, amongst others.
“We’re trying to be as inclusive and intersectional as possible.”
In the months since Ana Breton first created the La Marcha de Mayo Facebook event, she’s found herself overwhelmingly emotional in a positive way.
“Anytime someone posts on the Facebook event I get emotional,” she said. “Nonstop happy crying.”
If Breton has a takeaway from her first experience with political activism, it’s that any person can start a movement. La Marcha de Mayo has gained so much traction over the past months that there are talks of turning it into an organization to help the anti-Trump Resistance movement and immigrants in New York City. For now, her only hope is that at least one person will show up on May 6th and learn about how immigrants make our country stronger.
In the days (and weeks and months) since the election, we’ve all seen what appears to be some of the greatest examples of public political engagement in the modern era. People, mobilized on the streets, gathered at airports and marching down streets in groups ranging from three to 300,000. People calling their representatives over and over again, attending town halls, deciding to run for office, each of them looking around and thinking: if not me, then who? If not now, then when? Millions of Americans, each experiencing the mantle of greatness being thrust upon them and assuming it with grace.
Because apparently, it really does take Donald Trump to Make America Great. He’ll even be able to see it on May 6th, if he isn’t too busy sharing those Pepe memes.