Cape Fear Indivisible held its rally yesterday at the Market House in downtown Fayetteville, North Carolina.
The site of the rally itself, built in the 1830s, is not without controversy.
While not a dedicated slave market (most of those were located at major ports) “occasionally slaves were sold at Market Square and the vast majority of these sales were as a result of indebtedness or estate liquidation” (VisitNC).
The site is so contentious that a battle was only recently fought over its place in the marketing efforts of the city. Ultimately it was decided that the Market House would remain on the official city seal while not being featured in any branding.
A compromise in a city that is one of the most diverse in the United States.
So we met in the deep shade of the Market House to galvanize ourselves and passersby into action.
We met in the same space where the old State House once stood and where North Carolina delegates ratified the United States Constitution.
We met in the same space where farmers from the surrounding country would gather to sell produce.
We met in the same space where Fayettevillians have met for centuries.
Where speeches have been made and parades have begun. Where Christmas trees have flickered in the heart of downtown.
We met in the same space where slaves were sold with as little hesitation as any household item would be sold.
We met: black and white, veteran and civilian, very old and very young and all in between. Yankee transplants and military families, rabbi, priest, county commissioner, Latinx activist, educator.
Clustered together in the core of a city dominated by the presence of the United States military.
Palms and elbows sweaty. The heat index trembling around 100 degrees. A sea of humidity and tears and laughter. The bricks under our feet worn smooth and cool, jagged only with the names of donors to the preservation of the landmark.
At another critical juncture in American history federal troops skirmished with the rearguard of the Confederate Army as Sherman’s March descended on Fayetteville. The Market House stood silent witness as the streets were clouded with dust and anxiety then.
I was grateful to have something to do. To monitor the live stream of the rally on Facebook. To adjust the camera from speaker to crowd and back again. To be witness. Active and engaged and with hands full of purpose – however mundane.
To have something to do.
I can’t fully articulate the – I don’t know what it is. The Germans probably have a word for it. Some bizarre, biting word for the feeling of betrayal that is at once personal and impersonal and horrifying in all that it invalidates.