Founder of All Souls Procession Susan Johnson never intended for the event to become as big as it has
The beating heart of Tucson’s creative body came alive at the All Souls Procession last night.
Participants and spectators filled the starting area on Sixth Avenue and Seventh Street hours before the procession even started.
ASP allows people to honor and celebrate loved ones who have died in the past year.
The event accordingly felt like a bunch of intimate, personal experiences manifesting in a grand fashion.
Perhaps this is due to the fact that ASP really did start as a personal and individual celebration—one that founder Susan Johnson created without intention of it becoming a massive, city-wide event.
“My father passed away and he was a World War II Veteran, and he was at the bombing of Pearl Harbor so I wanted to honor him and his life,” Johnson said.
Although she doesn’t walk in honor of someone every year, Johnson built a float for this year’s procession in honor of her late husband, who was ASP’s co-founder.
After the first year, Johnson created workshops to get the community involved in her celebration.
“I created workshops for people to actually interact and make things together to process grieving, and also sharing who they were honoring, so it made more of a community event,” Johnson said.
Johnson brought the event’s Día de los Muertos-inspired concept to Tucson because of its proximity to the U.S.-Mexico border. She wanted to celebrate the holiday, but wasn’t of Hispanic descent, so she tried to integrate the ways Latin Americans connect with life and death into her own unique celebration.
ASP is completely non-profit. The volunteers who run the event, Many Mouths One Stomach, made their way through the crowds before the procession started, politely asking for $1 donations.
They seemed to serve as the backbone of the procession and made it clear the group has “never taken corporate sponsors and they never will.”
Although most of the procession-goers were honoring fallen loved ones, the atmosphere was uplifting and positive, as if they knew their loved ones were following them wherever they went.
The lighting of the urn at the procession’s finale brought closure to the evening and united the community in a ceremony where the dead met with the living for the ultimate celebration.