It’s no secret that I love public transportation. On my 19th birthday, my best friends threw me a party on the number 19 bus in Portland, and I moved to New York because it has the best mass transit system in the United States. In fact, as far as I know, it is the only city in the world where the trains run all day and night. My other favorite thing about New York is all the opportunities to organize for social change.
However, I didn’t realize just how essential mass transit is to social justice efforts until this weekend.
After attending the #BlackLivesMatter protests in New York City, I noticed that some of the hardest-working protesters––all people of color––were having a hard time getting money together for the train. That prompted me to think about how unlimited MetroCards are New York City’s golden ticket. With an unlimited weekly MetroCard, you can pay $31 to go anywhere in the city for seven days without having to think about money. Without one, you have to pay $2.50 per trip. How much harder would it be to speak out against injustice if it meant going without dinner or walking home late at night in the cold?
Last night, I launched a small fundraiser to get low-income protesters unlimited MetroCards, so that they don’t have to choose between raising their voices and getting home safely or going to work the next day. It is called Unlimited Voices and you can check it out here.
A few people have asked me, “Why unlimited cards?,” pointing out that we could get a lot more cards to a lot more people if we gave cards with smaller amounts or just swiped people in at major subway stations. The reason I think it’s important that they be unlimited is that there are actions happening all over the city every day, and anyone who wants to be at one—whichever one—should be able to go. I also know that amazing grassroots organizers are already mobilizing and manifesting in incredible ways. They don’t need my suggestions, and in fact, I need their leadership.
In less than a week, I have learned more about organizing and peaceful protest from the activists I’ve met on the streets than I have in my whole life.
Thank you so much to everyone who has donated. I am really hopeful about the impact our efforts will have and hope that together we make sure that those most affected by structural racism and this city’s vast wealth disparity have the ability to speak out without being limited by the high cost of mass transit in New York City.