Elliot  |  He/Him

We Held the Street

St. Louis, MO, USA
Deserts and Xeric Shrublands
Temperate Grasslands, Savannas, and Shrublands

Launch Performance: March 18, 2022

At 4 AM, the first alarm went off, and I hit snooze. 

At 4:15, the second alarm went off, and I said to myself: this is happening. I grabbed some granola bars and tied a yellow cloth around my arm so everyone knew I was the granola bar guy that day.

At 6:45, I reported for duty at the New York Avenue playground. About fifty of us watched as the plans were presented. We were sleepy, but ready.

7 AM, rush hour, show time. The sound of the drums carried us to the street, where we marched two blocks to the exit ramp of Route 395—the highway. So many times we had marched around this city, demanding a livable future, and so many times we had been ridiculed, or ignored. This time, we said, would be different. We were no longer just taking to the streets, we were taking the streets. We linked arms right there on the exit ramp, and then, we stopped.

I can still hear the truck horns blaring as traffic came to a standstill. No more business as usual.

At 7:30, I got a text from my grandma: “I just turned on the television and you’re on Fox News!,” she said. “Shouldn’t you be in school?”

Somewhere around then, I lost track of time. For a few hours, we held the street, singing, chanting, and standing together. “Who shut it down? We shut it down.” Now they could definitely hear us.

You know, part of being an activist is telling the truth, and the truth is that I don’t know whether I’d occupy an exit ramp again. I don’t know that it’s the best long-term strategy to get people on our side. But what I do know is this: in that moment, standing in the street with our arms linked, singing spirited songs of righteous resistance, I felt like we were no longer just fighting against something. We were fighting for something. For our future.

And I’ve been chasing that feeling ever since.

Elliot James Williams is an actor, writer and producer focused on environmental storytelling and public narrative. He is rooted in the ranches of West Texas, the banks of the Mississippi River, the trails of Rock Creek Park and the beaches of Northern France.