“I think that Martin Luther King intended for compassion for all, it includes all life forms. And I was thinking what a great way to spread awareness for animal cruelty, the environment, and how we treat each other.” This is what the weather anchor and meteorologist of CBS, Julie Watkins said when talking about her motivation for Girls Gone Green marching in the Martin Luther King Parade on January 20. Watkins has been a long time advocate for animal rights, veganism, human rights, and environmentalism. In addition, Watkins has been the executive director of Girls Gone Green for three years.

I thought I’d take it upon myself to volunteer to be in the parade and march with the Girls Gone Green and learn more about the cause and inspiration of marching in the parade. What did I find? Well for one thing, I found that there are more men than women volunteering in the Girls Gone Green group. This was both amusing and interesting given the groups the title. I met a lot of different people during the event, most of whom seemed to be involved in other causes and group affiliations, and were Vegan, or newly Vegan, and excited to be a part of the parade and spread awareness.

Prepping for the parade, I jumped into a strawberry costume and waited for the parade to start. It took a very long time, so I did a lot of looking around while waiting. During that time, I thought while it seems obvious how compassion awareness may seem to fit in with the theme of the MLK holiday, I was dying to ask Julie some questions on what she really wanted to glean from this experience, and nothing says professional like asking questions dressed up like a strawberry and leggings.

I asked Watkins, “What inspired you to be apart of the parade, and how do you think compassion awareness ties into this day?” She replied, “I think Martin Luther King’s quotes and speeches said it all. I think that his message was for everyone and all inclusive of life, and that by doing this, we could promote that understanding and compassion.” I like this idea that “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Watkins continued adding, “This can apply to so much and is very true.” Originally, Watkins and her group had also intended to march in the parade to promote “No Meat March” an event desiring to promote abstaining from meat for the entire month of March, as well as to build awareness about animal cruelty in the production of meat.

During the parade, Girls Gone Green members dressed up in costumes as fruits, vegetables, and animals, holding banners and signs reading, “Eat your veggies, not your friends,” and “Give peas a chance.”  Members such as Alicia Cabrera-Thomas helped to organize the event by attending the board meeting for the parade and squeezing Girls Gone Green in at the last minute. Cabrera-Thomas had so much effervescence towards the march, it seemed to boil over to everyone that day.

Behind the scenes, I got to see all the groups getting ready. There was spur of the moment dancing, live music, and countless floats and vehicles all dressed up with their décor for the event. Dressed up as a giant strawberry, I felt connected to something greater than just volunteering for a parade. I felt interconnected to a movement that stood for something much greater than honoring a day and past hero. It was a movement intended for everyone and everything. In the month of February, I suppose if I had a cause for the month of love, and all things pertaining to our Love Issue here at Void, it would be to carry on the compassion in some way or another. Despite the long wait and standing around in Zone C for hours, similar to that of a cattle call, I was happy to be a part of this experience. I think if compassion could stand for something, it would certainly be all-inclusive.

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