Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Women's March: Inspiration, motivation, galvanization

Unity in numbers / Hundreds of thousands of women (and men), both
white and of color, marched for political activism in Washington, D.C. and
throughout America, and around the world. 

The American writer and poet Alice Walker, who wrote the critically acclaimed novel The Color Purple, once said "Activism is our rent for living on the planet." I think she was on to something because last Saturday women (and men), both white and of color, spanning a variety of economic and religious backgrounds, united for a just cause.

They marched for political activism. Health care, the economy, climate change, immigration, paid family leave, net neutrality, education, freedom of the press.

Millions united worldwide and took to the streets to protest the inauguration of Donald Trump and also to celebrate women's rights. On Saturday, they marched for democracy.

My heart and support goes out to my friends, family and loved ones – and to all – who marched not only in the Women's March in Washington, D.C., but also hundreds of sister marches throughout America and around the world. Through the power of their spoken and written words, as well as through their images and pictures that were shared via social media platforms – and, importantly, in their strength in numbers – we saw that there is such great hope for our country. I'm proud to see so many devote their time and energy towards walking for civil liberties and basic, fundamental human rights for all.

A view of the National Mall as seen from the U.S. Capitol,
during the Women's March in Washington, D.C. The
number of participants far exceeded expectations,
event organizers said, and it eclipsed the crowd attending
President Trump's inauguration a day earlier.
A day after President Trump's inauguration last Friday, in which he shared his uniquely dark and dystopian vision of the U.S., there was much support, love and light shown during the Women's March in Washington, D.C. According to the organizers of the event, the goal was to send a powerful message to the new administration and to the new President. Initial estimates numbered 500,000 participants in the nation's capital alone – considerably more than the 200,000 expected, and far exceeding the number who attended Friday's inauguration of the 45th President. Demonstrations remained peaceful throughout.

Linda Sarsour, a Palestinian-American activist and national co-chair of the Women's March on Washington, said during an interview Monday evening on MSNBC's All In With Chris Hayes that she was extremely overwhelmed by the turnout. "Women showed up (all over the world) and showed their power," she said. Asked why the march exceeded expectations, Sarsour said: "We were able to speak to the values of people. We came together in solidarity to stand with the most marginalized people. We were also intersectional. It wasn't just about reproductive rights. It was climate justice and racial justice and immigrant rights. Everyone found a place to be there. We spoke to every one's inner frustrations. We went from Friday's devastation to Saturday's inspiration, motivation and galvanization."

In a New York Times editorial published on its website Monday, it wrote: "Whether President Trump, newly ensconced in the White House, was surprised or even noticed is unclear. Given his reputation, he may not even care. But the Republican Party should."

We are America /
Marching near the National Museum of
the American Indian in Washington, D.C.
(Photo by Carla Morris.)
Actress America Ferrera, who was one of the first speakers at the Washington, D.C. rally, said: "We march today for the moral core of this nation, against which our new president is waging a war. Our dignity, our character, our rights have all been under attack and a platform of hate and division assumed power yesterday. But the president is not America. ... We are America and we are here to stay."

The feminist icon Gloria Steinem, 82, also speaking in the nation's capital, exulted: "This is the upside of the downside. This is an outpouring of democracy like I've never seen in my very long life."

Senator Elizabeth Warren, Democrat of Massachusetts, marching in Boston, said, "We can whimper. We can whine. Or we can fight back!"

Back in Washington, D.C., singer Madonna said matter-of-factly: "Let's march together through this darkness and with each step know that we are not afraid, that we are not alone that we will not back down. There is power in our unity and no opposing force stands a chance in the face of true solidarity." She added: "Today marks the beginning of our story. The revolution starts here. The fight for the right to be free, to be who we are, to be equal."

Energizing in the name of goodwill /
A sign proclaiming "My Body My Choice" was one of
many causes represented during the Women's March.
(Photo by Carla Morris.)
Among my many Macalester College friends who marched in Washington, D.C., and elsewhere, Carla Morris, an independent consultant who is married and the mother of two young boys, described her march experience like this: "It was like we had all individually and collectively found the real America again! I did not see a single act of unkindness or disrespect all day long." On her Facebook page, Morris called the mood in Washington, D.C. "so jubilant. Everyone on the trains going down to the march beamed at each other, smiled, chanted together, clapped, traded stories, helped each other. ... It was so wonderful. A fabulous, energizing day of goodwill."

Among many speakers whom I saw while watching TV coverage via MSNBC and C-SPAN, I was particularly interested in learning viewpoints from people of color and of different religions, groups which are being marginalized by the Trump administration. I heard the passionate voices of Zahra Billoo, the San Francisco Bay Area Director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), and of Van Jones, founder and president of Rebuild the Dream, an American center-left political organization, and a former Obama Administration advisor.

Billoo, a Muslim-American, said: "Our America ... includes all of us in our beautiful diversity. Our America requires that we march to protect each other. Our America needs us to build a better future. We have our work cut out for us but we are ready."

Marching towards a better future /
The Women's March showed peaceful yet powerful activism.
(Photo by Carla Morris.) 
Meanwhile, Jones, a black male, reached out to both conservatives and liberals during his speech. He said: "This movement has the opportunity to stand up for the underdogs in the red states and the blue states, to stand up for the Muslims and the Dreamers ... but also to stand up for the coal miners who are going to be thrown under the bus by Donald Trump. We're going to stand up for them. All those Rust Belt workers who he doesn't want to mess with but wants to mess over, we've got to stand up for them. We have to have a position that's clear. When it gets harder to love, let's love harder."

Looking back upon this special and unique day, in Washington, D.C., throughout American cities from Seattle and San Francisco to Ann Arbor and Chicago, to Raleigh, Boston and New York, and around the world – a record turnout for protests the likes of which we have not seen since the Vietnam War  – there was great strength found in this peaceful yet powerful activism, and unity in its numbers.

On this memorable day, love truly trumped hate.

Photos: Courtesy of Google images and Carla Morris.

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