THE WOMEN’S MARCH ON WASHINGTON: MY SOUL IS ON FIRE

Posted on Jan 25, 2017 in LIFE

“I am unafraid to be nasty, because I am nasty like Susan, Elizabeth, Eleanor, Amelia, Rosa, Gloria, Condoleezza, Sonia, Malala, Michelle, Hillary.”
— Ashley Judd, performing the poem “I am a Nasty Woman” by Nina Donovan.

Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

The night before we left for D.C., I had doubts. After almost falling asleep, I woke up to mental images of someone being shot in the street, of my siblings having to run from danger. With crowds that large, and the rhetoric that is spread every single day, I feel like it was valid that I had fears. I thought of every terrible thing that could happen in a crowd of hundreds of thousands of people.

“Am I doing the right thing?” I asked my very sleepy husband.

“What? Of course you are,” he replied, throwing an arm over me.

by Louisa Cannel

A Global Outcry

I’ve since realized that my fear, my doubt, was my privilege talking. I am slowly but surely learning to check said privilege, but sadly, it took Donald Trump getting elected and this incredible march to show me that part of myself. I know I will mess up, but I’m working on it.

Once I got on that metro train, whatever I was afraid of went away. I never felt unsafe, afraid or alone.

I felt fury. I felt fire.

I felt empowered.

The original estimates for the number of people expected to attend the march on Washington were around 400,000. Current counts are showing that it was closer to 1 million.

One million people.

Furthermore, there were marches in every state and all seven continents. This was literally a global cry to be heard.Everyone just needed to voice their worries, their pains, their fears for this world. People who were afraid, hurting, angry, moved to do something. People who couldn’t stand by and let those who need a voice continue to be silenced. People who want a better world for themselves or their children or their grand-children. People who just want to be heard.

“Sometimes pressing ‘send’ is not enough.”
— Gloria Steinem

The streets were literally full. During the rally, it seemed as if the founders of the event were scrambling to get a new permit for the march, because the streets they had originally planned for were already full of people. If they didn’t obtain another permit, I’m not totally sure how they pulled this off, because we did indeed march. Otherwise, the march would have been just one million people turning around and getting stuck because there would be nowhere else to go. But they pulled it off, and we marched. We chanted. We laughed and smiled and cried. It was the most incredible thing I’ve ever experienced.

by Kimothy Joy

The rally lasted for seven hours, and of course there were some people who got impatient, but for the majority, we were all there for the long haul. When our legs started feeling tired from standing, we would start leading stretches for the crowd. One person would squat down or do a side stretch, and everyone would follow, smiling with relief from a little movement, but still standing firm. We heard so many incredible speeches and presentations, each one moving and inspiring for its own reasons. The celebrities that were there were incredible, but not because of their fame. America Fererra. Gloria Steinem. Scarlett Johansson. Alicia Keys. And many others were there just to march. Amy Schumer, Cher, Uzo Aduba, Tina Fey, Mae Whitman, Lena Dunham, Chrissy Teigen, Emma Watson. It was incredible to see these people standing with us. In that situation, where a group of previously unknown people who have never organized anything like this, they needed some well-known, supportive people to help gain recognition. If you are privileged enough to have a platform to speak about something important, I think it is your duty to use it. These people didn’t just use their fame for bringing recognition to this march, they physically marched with us.

“We will continue to rise until our voices are heard,
until our planet’s safety is not deferred,
until our bombs stop dropping in other lands,
until our dollar is the same dollar as a man’s.”
— Alicia Keys

I’ve recently been reading criticisms about Ashley Judd’s performance, and Madonna’s words during her speech at the end. I actually missed Madonna’s speech, because the giant section we were in had begun to march, and we couldn’t really stay put (I also missed seeing Amy Schumer, which I’m super sad about.), but I have listened to it, and I have to say—I do think it was a little much, HOWEVER, Madonna is who she is, and I’m not sure why anyone was surprised by her language. It is also possible for a woman to be both in favor of love and angry about things at the same time. Should she have said what she said? Maybe not. But do not discount the entire march just from her words.

I was, however, there for Ashley’s performance, and I say performance, because she was performing something called slam poetry. Through the comments and criticisms of her performance, I realized a few things, including that not everyone is familiar with slam poetry. It is supposed to be dramatic, emotional, and yes, even angry. And that’s exactly what Ashley added to that moving poem. Furthermore, I saw her performance being called “vulgar” or “disgusting,” which is truly baffling to me, seeing as our new president said much worse things, and no one batted an eye. Was the parts about a woman’s period vulgar or offensive? Or the parts about our tampons being taxed but products like Rogaine are not? Or was it disgusting when she spoke of our president treating his favorite daughter like a sex symbol? If these words offended you, that’s okay. I understand. But if that is disgusting to you, I would beg you to revisit everything our president said leading up to his election, every rap song you’ve ever heard, and every HBO show you watch on the weekends. If something makes you uncomfortable, maybe it’s something you need to try to understand.

by Deborah Stein

Even though I have made my feelings after this election and our current state of affairs pretty clear on social media, as Gloria Steinem told us during the march, hitting “send” is no longer enough. It’s time to get to work.

“Let us fight with love, faith and courage, so that our families will not be destroyed.”
— Sophie Cruz, 6 year old, speaking with her undocumented family by her side.

Somehow, even though the video footage and photos from the marches all over the world were breath-taking, even though I am still fired up and inspired to make a change in this world, even though I and millions of people all over the world stood up for literally everyone who needs someone to give them a voice, people still commented, messaged, and reposted negative comments about this movement.

I marched for everyone.

But let me be crystal clear here — this was not a march solely for one purpose, it was a march for multiple causes, multiple messages, all walks of people. I marched for everyone.

I marched for my ancestors, who had their land and lives stripped from them without a blink. There were thousands of Native American people there, from Standing Rock and otherwise, marching to be seen, to demand to be heard. I marched for them.

I marched for my grandmothers, who made me the strong woman I am today and were subjected to sexism their entire lives. There were women in their 70’s at this march, who have marched their entire lives for equality. They walked slowly, or leaned on family members as they marched. I marched for them, too.

“Our approach to freedom need not be identical but it must be intersectional and inclusive. It must extend beyond ourselves.”
— Janet Mock

I marched for my parents who I’m not even sure completely understood the meaning of this march, but who have worked their asses off my entire life to provide for our family and raised me and my siblings to be kind to other people. There were mothers and fathers there with their children. I saw a man holding a sign that said “I’m with her” with arrows pointing to all of the women in his family who were with him. I witnessed an older man in a Marine Corps hat spot another man in another Marine Corps hat, and he wrote his battalion on a piece of paper and asked us to pass it back to the man. The man who received the note found the sender with his eyes across the crowd, pointed to his hat and said “It’s my son’s.” It was his son’s hat. He was marching for his son. I marched for all of them.

by Isabel Castillo Guijarro

“Stand up for coal miners who are going to be thrown under the bus by Donald Trump. We’re going to stand up for them.”
— Van Jones, #LoveArmy.

I marched for my siblings, who have faced their own discrimination and pain in this world, but who still care about everyone else more than themselves. We are obviously a white family, but we know that we are all human beings, and that no color, religion, or sexual orientation makes you any less of a human. I marched for them because as their older sister, I want their world to be better, more inclusive, more loving than it is right now. I marched for the times we didn’t have as much, when we were unsure of ourselves, when we felt alone without each other.

I marched for my husband. While he is a white Christian man in this country, the most privileged race, religion, and gender, he is inclusive and loving to everyone he meets. He is educated, intelligent, and kind, and isn’t afraid to stand up for what he believes. I marched so that maybe men like him, the majority of this country and now our leaders, can start standing up, too.

I marched for those who cannot stand, who cannot speak, hear, or see. I saw people in wheelchairs, people who were blind. And I know there were people all over the world who saw us marching and had hope that things could be better.

by Kimothy Joy

I marched for the sick, the people who will die without healthcare. I saw a women during the march who wore a surgical mask over her young face and held a sign that said “I am terminally ill. I will die without the ACA.” The trip to DC could have killed her, but she was there. I marched for her. I also saw an older man holding up a sign over the crowd that read “My 3 year old grand-daughter has cancer. We need the ACA.” Her tiny handprints were on the poster in purple paint. I marched for her, too.

I marched for the abused, the assaulted, the 1 in 5 women who will experience this in their lifetime. I marched for the girl on my campus who was forced to leave school because she was raped and her attacker was only given probation. I marched for every woman who has been attacked and dismissed.

“Remember, the Constitution does not begin with ‘I the President,’ it begins with ‘We the People’.”
— Gloria Steinem

I marched for the forgotten. There were men and women there from Flint, Michigan, who have gone over 1,000 days without clean water. ONE. THOUSAND. DAYS. With no end in sight. As a woman from West Virginia, I know what it’s like to have our and land and resources stripped from us without anyone batting an eye, and I marched for a better way.

I marched for those who don’t believe in the cause. Yes, even them. Because even if they don’t understand the need to check their privilege right now, maybe they will one day.

I marched for my future children and the children in my family. Many parents brought their children with them to this march, and one young girl, maybe 9 years old, led a cheer during our march. “Show me what democracy looks like,” she cried out. “This is what democracy looks like,” the crowd responded. And Sophie Cruz, a 6 year old girl who spoke at the rally in both English and Spanish, brought literally everyone to tears. A kind lady passed out tissues in our area as we sobbed. I marched for Sophie, for my nephews, my little cousins, my friend’s babies, for my future babies.

I marched for the women who came before me to pave the way, and the ones who gave me my roots.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton.

Susan B. Anthony.

Ruth Bader Ginsberg.

Angela Davis.

Gloria Steinem.

Robin Queen.

Jo Ann Ross.

Frankie Queen.

Gladys Marsh.

Thelma Ross.

Laura Lea Queen.

I marched for myself. I decided after the election that I had to do something. I couldn’t just sit on my couch or at my desk and retweet posts from national newspapers or CNN. I had to get up, get on my feet, take a stand. I wouldn’t be able to look myself in the mirror every day for the rest of my life if I didn’t do something, and because I have never considered myself an activist before, I had to start somewhere. How about a historic march on Washington? And this is just the beginning.

“We’re on fire
living in a world
that’s on fire.
— Alicia Keys

We are ALL humans. Even him.

Do not be confused. I have not forgotten that even our new president is also a human being. As hard as that is for me to say, and as much as I have struggled with that inclusion, I know he is also a member of the world we are hoping to make better. While his words and actions can be forgiven, just like any mistake anyone else makes can be forgiven, his rhetoric has promoted division, exclusion, and hatred. And it seems that many people either do not care enough to stand up against all of that, standing only for what benefits them, or they actually agree with him. His behavior has been unsettling (and disgusting) to so many of us, and we had to make ourselves heard.

As a Christian woman, it has been extremely difficult for me to get my point across, especially in a small, conservative state. It’s frustrating, but it’s a battle I’m willing to fight. Every day, if I need to. Because you see, I feel as though Christianity has lost a lot of what it is founded upon. I believe, along with Christians, that Jesus came to this earth to save us, and by “us” I don’t mean white people. I mean anyone who will follow him. Jesus hung out with the poor, the sick, the hungry, the outcasts, those who needed the most help. And those people are the most forgotten right now.

We have travelled so far away from any sort of understanding of each other, and words like “liberal” or “progressive” or “feminist” have become like curse words. It is in fact possible to be both a Christian and someone who wants a progressive nation.

And you know what, people?

Jesus was brown. He was not this portrait of a white man with a beard that hangs on the walls of so many churches. He was born in Bethlehem, and likely had the olive complexion of those from the Middle-East. Yes, that Middle-East. The one we are so afraid of.

“I also want to tell the children not to be afraid, because we are not alone. There are still many people that have their hearts filled with love and tenderness to snuggle in this path of life. Let’s keep together and fight for the rights. God is with us.”

— Sophie Cruz

We are being told to build a wall, to keep the outsiders out and the insiders in, but history has shown us that walls do not work.

Just ask Berlin.

Groups of people marched in every state in our nation, and every continent on our earth. This is clearly not just a United States thing, or a woman thing.

It is a humanity thing.

Even though it took way too damn long, I finally stood in solidarity with this country’s greatest people, those who have been beaten, forgotten, and silenced. Instead of just sharing links to social media, I finally got on my feet. I’m finally fighting for those who need a voice, for those who need a hand, and for myself, so that I may look myself in the mirror every day for the rest of my life and know that I stood up for my fellow man and woman.

Love wins, people. Love always wins.

1 Comment

  1. Mountain Gypsy THE STORIES I WANT TO TELL - Mountain Gypsy
    April 24, 2017

    […] I also won First Place for the same piece in the Maier Awards on campus. I have a piece about the Women’s March coming out in an anthology by Cat Pleska, and I have written and submitted more of my work for […]

    Reply

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