I Covered the "March for Our Lives" for @Instagram✊🏾
Monday, March 19th
I woke up just like I did every other day leading up to this day. Except, I had no idea how on this day, my life would change.
Location: Lunch line at a dining hall on campus
Subject: @ClassyMalick - Hello From Instagram
@Instagram producer, Alina Grosman, had wrote me to say that herself and the @Instagram team loved my Instagram account, and that they had an idea.
Was this real? What could the project be? Seems pretty legit...she has an @instagram.com email address. I secretly geeked out on the lunch line.
In five minutes flat I replied with gratitude for the kind words, and expressed interest in the unnamed project they thought I'd be a good fit for.
7:00PM - Scheduled Call
The phone rings. It's Alina. She explains that Instagram is interested in having me host the @Instagram account as the student-reporter on this student-led and driven movement, the #NeverAgain movement, the March for Our Lives.
"I've told you too much. Are you in?"
NDA rolls in. Shhhhhhhh.
Tuesday, March 20th
I've looked for flights, figured out my meeting availability for pre-production calls with the @Instagram team and my photographer for the day, David Guttenfelder. I've signed the NDA. Secret's safe with me!
Wednesday, March 21st
I had a call with an @Instagram Content Manager who was going to write my feature and introduce me to millions as the host of THE Instagram Story that day.
I had a second call with my photographer, and the team at Instagram to talk logistics and what would be happening remotely from HQ as myself and team were on the ground.
Thursday, March 22nd
I compiled a highlight reel of my most recent on-camera work, and sent highlight journalistic writing, as well as two of my favorite posts from this very blog. Flights are booked. Outstanding questions I had have been answered.
"Have a smooth trip down to DC and see you soon!" - Alina. THIS...IS HAPPENING!
Friday, March 23rd
I continue to act as though I'm not flying out after attending my 8am class and hosting a 9am campus tour. With the NDA looming over my head, I tell friends who have asked where I'm going/why i'm suddenly needing shift coverage and accommodations for things I'll miss that I have to keep quiet. Shhhhh.
✌🏾✈️1:05PM Off the ground at ITH
🛬A little later than 5:00PM...On the ground at IAD
I hopped in a Lyft, DC bound. My flight got in a little late, and the streets were F L O O D E D with traffic. I had to cancel a haircut appointment and change the destination address a million times. I had only been to DC once when I was reaIly little so all the tourist buses and historic buildings really made me get the sense that I was actually in the nation's capital. Forget the Washington Monument, take me straight to Sephora😂. I quickly got color matched (lol), bought the foundation and ran to Walgreens to pickup simple things like toothpaste that I had forgotten in the midst of all my excitement. I also picked up razors/shaving cream to shave. LOL. This was about to be someeeeee night. I *had* to look good before I went in front of 200+ million people!
I met and hugged Alina (the sweetest producer ever!!) and got introduced to star-photographer David Guttenfelder. He's the real deal. We had dinner together, got to know each other, and talked about our plans for the big day. Alina handed us our press credentials and when we got back to the hotel I was prepped for the insane amount of exposure and traffic that my Instagram account would soon receive.
I went to bed late because I made some phone calls to family letting them know of my safe arrival and of my settling in to the gorgeous W Washington Hotel💕. (More like freaked out about being inside the gorgeous W Washington Hotel😂).
Saturday, March 24
Today is the day. It's the March for Our Lives✊🏾!
I woke up early and immediately tuned to CNN. I ordered fruit for breakfast because I can never really eat when big moments like this are about to happen. I started watching my peers out of the hotel room window walking to the main event area with their protest signs. This was actually happening.
TALENT CALL: 9:00AM
I met in the lobby with both my producer and photographer who were assembling all of their gear. As Instagram talent I didn't really have to hold anything...just my phone...and that was AWESOME.
We were hours ahead of schedule, but so were protestors! Our voices were quickly drowned in the sea of "Excuse me."'s. We made our way close to the stage only to find out we needed to go around to a special media/staff entrance. We hopped back on the train of pardons, and went *really* far around due to security measures.
Once we finally reached our entrance we met our escorts. One of them said "You're the talent?" I said "Yup!" Every so often I think of her response which I loved, "That's exciting!" The vibes from that moment of realization of how exciting this was are indescribable. We started out near the media area steps from CNN Correspondent Rene Marsh who I had watched that morning. Still trying to wrap my head around everything, and keep it in the game I put off introducing myself. I do hope I get to meet her one day!
I started talking to my phone, "Hi! I'm Malick Mercier -- a freshman Journalism major at Ithaca College in Washington, DC." Ooops! That's not it. My school isn't in DC!
I did some good takes and got a compliment from a nearby photographer. He later critiqued me saying I was "TOO HAPPY."
That was hard. After all we were there because seventeen people were shot dead in one of the most sacrosanct places, school. Lest we forget all the other students, faculty, and staff that have been killed in classrooms and corridors over the years. The energy was something to grapple with because in some ways with all the people, and celebrities, and music blaring it did have a concert-y feel. Even more, I was extremely energized by the amount of students that had come out for something they believed in. WE -- students -- did this.
We made our way onto the main stage where Emma Gonzalez, and David Hogg among others would soon say their piece, take their moment, for their peers, for what they believed in. Seeing hundreds of thousands of people from that point of view for something regarding my own age group was so, so oh so powerful. It moved me. I am still being moved by all of this.
"Hi! I'm Malick Mercier -- a freshman Journalism major at Ithaca College, here in Washington, D.C. to tell the story of my peers. The March for Our Lives. Take a look at the crowd behind me."
We at one point or another hit up the media tent with Wi-Fi which is how we got the Insta Story clips and photos back to the remote team who was posting and uploading everything from HQ. I was soon cleared to let my followers know I'd be taking over the account. I was told to start posting as many of the @Instagram followers would soon come over to my account for additional coverage. I cleared my story from the previous day and got to work.
We then went even higher than the stage. My photographer David somehow managed to get us on the sky lift aerial work platform. Within mere seconds of being told I was being harnessed. Within minutes I was lifted into what I'm sure was (or at least felt like) hundreds of feet above the crowd. Wow. If anywhere... I think it hit me there. Seeing the march from that point of view and knowing I had a job to report to hundreds of millions above the hundreds of thousands was absolutely immeasurable. I start doing an Insta Story and as I'm reporting, the crowd starts chanting "VOTE. THEM. OUT!" Being able to react to that, and share that message. I have to take a second to close my eyes and shake just writing this. This means the world to me. I'm a storyteller.
I now joke that signing a talent contract means you'll be strapped to a crazy machine and be put in the air to report. Haha! In all seriousness, this was the moment of a lifetime. What an amazing opportunity to give our viewers a bird's eye view.
Later in the afternoon, I started speaking with students...most younger than me who had come out to protest. One of them -- a ten-year old -- told me he felt it was his responsibility to come out and fight because others weren't. Wow. Wow. Wow. Many told me being there felt empowering. I think that was the resounding message, the most repeated emotion. Empowering. It was an honor to amplify their voices.
It was so interesting interviewing in such a digital, and modern space. We really had the chance to experiment out in the field which I'm so grateful for. We walked around, I got some more footage for my Story and then we headed back to the media tent. Alina finished up some work, while I tried to find Rene Marsh. LOL.
As we walked back to the hotel I remember still being in this daze...I'm still in it writing this, but it was heavy then. I remember at one point -- before we began doing interviews -- I had started crying. I blamed the wind at the time, but I think there was a piece of my insides that brought that on too. I almost couldn't talk to the camera and Alina wiped my tears. Reporter downnnn. There was just a lot happening inside me.
And then the outside changed. More people were watching my Story than ever before, and more people were probably watching my coverage of the rally on @Instagram than on TV, if we're being real!
When we got back to the hotel I stuffed my face with one of the snacks (I think mini chocolate chip cookies) in the hotel room. I was starvingggg.
We soon went out and got some dinner. I had spicy ramen. Hit. The. Spot. 🙌🏾
I told my team that I *had* to see the White House before I left DC, and so we made that our final stop. Protesters had left their signs there, so I ran this Insta poll, a storytelling tool I love.
My Instagram at that point was OFF THE HOOK. 99+ direct messages, thousands of likes, and hundreds of comments. I was and still am so grateful.
Sunday, March 25
6:00AM Wheels up at DCA...headed back to Ithaca College.
This wasn't the evening news...this was INSTAGRAM aka *everyone* knew!!
Congratulations, Congratulations, Congratulations!!👏🏾👏🏾👏🏾 I couldn't be more appreciative of all the ✨kindness✨ that's been thrown my way from the moment I stepped foot on my college campus. From a prospective IC student stopping me after my campus tour to say they saw me reporting on @Instagram, to my journalism teacher putting my feature on our smart board in front of the class, it's been really, really special.
I've also gotten my share of creepy phone calls, texts, and direct messages. Insta-fame is something!
I find reasons for my heart to be full for all of it❤️. Instagram has reached out for updates, I've been contacted by a major media outlet for an internship interview, and tomorrow I'll be on @Seventeen Magazine's Instagram LIVE with Aija Mayrock and Haile Thomas to chat about what I wish my parents knew about Instagram. This truly was and is my first big break!
A special thank you to
This has moved me. Thank you for placing this opportunity in my hands. I don't know if I'll ever come to terms with all that happened, and I love that the time it is taking me to process all of this is apart of this fabulous journey.
Note: Photos were either taken by myself, producer Alina Grosman, or photographer David Guttenfelder unless otherwise noted.
Thank you for reading.
With ❤️and gratitude,