Resisting With Joy in 2020

Kamala Harris in Jacksonville, dancing in the rain.

In Philadelphia, people sang and danced up a storm as voters waited in long lines for early voting. In Texas, more than 43 percent of registered voters have already voted. In 2016, a total of 59 percent voted in the presidential election. A marching band and drumline, dressed in white and masked against COVID, greeted voters at New York City’s Barclay Center on the first day of early voting. Ora Smith, 102, handed in her absentee ballot in South Carolina last week. A cavalcade of Latino voters on horseback rode to the Walnut Recreation Center in Las Vegas to vote on October 24. In Florida, Kamala Harris held an umbrella against the rain as she danced to Mary Blige’s “Work That.”  

Ora Smith’s grandmother was enslaved. She grew up during times when Black people were not allowed to vote. She said it is an “enjoyment to go vote.”

Cosmo Baker joined in the joy, tweeting “We ROCKED the polling places on Saturday, bringing @JoyToThePolls! Together with #ElectionDefenders me & @Bahamadia brought the funky vibes to our fellow citizens exercising their right to vote. In my 30 year career this is among the top moments!”

Voting should be joyful. That’s the motto of #JoyToThePolls, which aims “to bring joy to the polls & make voting a celebration.”

Not so, according to Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan. She slammed Kamala Harris for dancing and for laughing, calling her “insubstantial, frivolous” and “embarrassing.” 

She’s so wrong.

Music and movement spark joy. Music gives voice to resistance. 

“You have to hope to get up in the morning,” Chuck McDew told me years ago. The second chair of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), he believed music and joy were essential to resistance. “You had to be able to sing,” McDew said. “You had to be able to preach. You had to be able to inspire. Music is very important in doing that. …If you can’t sing, you can’t organize!” 

From Kamala Harris to #JoyToThePolls, music and movement are organizing this year. Music feeds hope. Resistance is rooted in hope, not in despair.

“Joy is an act of resistance,” tweeted Minnesota Representative Ilhan Omar. 

She’s so right. 

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