Many members of our #MacroSW community around the world participated in Women’s marches on January 21, 2017. Here are some of their stories, experiences, and photos.
Standing on the platform at the McLean metro stop waiting for the train to take us into D.C. for the Women’s March I was excited and had no idea what to expect from this experience. I attended with my fellow #MacroSW partners, Karen and Sunya, and Rudra, a colleague from the Clinton campaign and hoped the masses gathering would effectively carry a message for our ever-growing list of causes. Trump’s rhetoric was on the verge of becoming reality and that prospect chilled me to my core. As a social worker, I realized our profession would be on the frontlines in fighting for the many people Trump policies would impact. At the Women’s March, my goal was to soak in the energy, observe the strength of so many people coming together, as well as understand the depth and fervent nature of what is shaping up to be “the resistance.”
As you now know, the crowds were twice as large as expected and worldwide women, men, children and people of difference backgrounds converged on Capitol Hill. At the March everyone was kind to each other, I met people from all over the country and there was an unspoken understanding among us that we were taking part in history. The marchers route was diverted from Independence Avenue to the wider Constitution Avenue/ Pennsylvania Avenue route towards the edge of the Treasury Department near the White House. We passed the National Archives Building, the home of the Constitution and Bill of Rights; the Newseum, where we chanted “freedom to the press” and the Trump International Hotel, in which the crowd erupted into shouts of, “shame, shame, shame.” It is shameful what Trump espouses and shameful when elected officials do nothing to fight the injustices unfolding right before them. I’m confident this Women’s March is just the beginning and will turn into further action. People are ready to stand up and fight back. I also know, and this I impress to advocates everywhere, we will not be alone in doing what is right and speaking out about any unjust actions by the Trump Administration.
I participated in the Million Woman’s March in Philadelphia in October 1997. It was a joyous coming together of women from the African diaspora in the United States to bring our best efforts to make our nation, families and communities better. I took my children, one of whom was in a stroller at the time. I came back from that march energized, and willing to WORK even- harder for human rights, social justice and community change. Not boasting, but in record time, and with minimal resources I was able to do some amazing things in partnership with others. So much so, the Department of Justice noted our innovative work. I embody the “Strong Black Woman, and I know how to WORK and get things done. I have been socialized for generations to do this. Fast forward to 2017 and the Women’s March on Washington.
I had decided I was not going to attend.
Why? I had become pretty much battle and WORK weary. I was tired of Black women’s leadership coming in behind that of White women’s leadership, or not being recognized at all. Like everyone else I was experiencing the collective grief and trauma from a brutal political campaign and its unfathomable result. (It wasn’t really unfathomable for me, I was just hoping common sense would prevailt. It didn’t). I was fed up with still having to prove Black Lives Matter in every endeavor of human activity. I didn’t want to have to bite my tongue or talk in code to state my reality. I didn’t want to have to fight with any feminists who believed their contribution to today’s injustice would be simply to “listen and try to understand.” I wasn’t up for any of that bulls*#t. So I pretty much decided to stay home and WORK.
Then, I decided to make another decision. I wanted to spend my birthday with my friends in #MacroSW. I wanted to connect with them, and share a unique experience in coming together to craft our own agenda for activism in this new age. I decided to come to the march as an act of self care, and for Black women self care is often a radical act of resistance. So, I laughed, danced, sang, chanted, swore,and flashed my middle fingers. I took off my work hats (there are many) and drank mimosas, had great discussions, connected with our growing sisterhood, ate cake and, had many plates of lasagne. I didn’t have any answers, I slept in late, I shed tears, I treated myself to dinner and I walked around in my pajamas the day after the march. I left the Strong Black Woman at home, enjoyed myself and allowed myself to become relaxed and renewed. Self care has been my focus the past few years. It allows me to return to my work with a mindful presence, and the need to pace myself in this long protracted ground game of working for human rights, social justice, and refusing to normalize what is not. I marched for financial capability and equal rights for women.
I marched for affordable health care, and decent wages. I marched for the lives of those lost and those to come. I marched for my daughters and grandsons. I marched for the Black feminist leadership I saw front and center during the day’s festivities. But most of all, I marched for myself and my right to sit down when I feel like it.
I marched in solidarity with millions of women around the world, to find the common core of our varied intersectional historical struggles and funnel our collective compassion, strength, and anger to resist the upcoming carnage of President Trump’s administration. I will partner with those who support our cause to fight the insidious forces of sexism and misogyny from damaging women’s rights and bodies.
The Women’s March on Washington was massive. Yet the size of the crowds, in the District of Colombia and around the globe, will not be its only measure. This is a march that will not end; it will continue in various places in various ways like an expanding web of global resistance. This will further strengthen all the actions countering attempts to roll back women’s rights, human rights, and help in the efforts to protect rights that enhance the collective good.
That collective good includes addressing the deeply entrenched racism in the U.S., gender-based violence, gun and drug epidemics, dismantlement of public education, disability rights, action on climate change, access to healthcare, criminal justice reform, LGBTQIAP rights, environmental justice, and the inherent right of all to the four freedoms: of speech, of religion, from want and from fear. Working to protect human rights is essential to redress injustice and injury that arises from so many sources: living with gun violence, immersion in the violence of poverty, multiple systems of oppression.
As Angela Davis said, “I am no longer accepting the things I can not change; I am changing the things I can not accept.”
The march itself generated discussions about white women’s privilege and racism. Disability advocates wrote critically about how organizers did not think to include elements that would have made it a truly accessible march. Many men and boys attended, and one of the memorable moments for me was toward the end of the march – the crowd I was following ended our march at L’Enfant Plaza. As we chanted, “My body, my choice,” it turned into a call-and-response with men chanting, “Your body, your choice.” The crowds watching from the overpasses cheered us. It was heartening to have so many men present as allies. And about time!
Black Lives Matter, Indigenous Women Rise, Refugees Welcome Here; millions of women and their allies stood for advancing the cause of social justice. This may mean we work to keep what had been gained circa 2016. It may mean that new people’s movements will lead to a world that nourishes, and does not diminishes. The march itself generated discussions on white women’s privilege (and men’s privilege) and racism. Disability advocates wrote very critically about how the organizers did not include many elements that could have made this a truly accessible march. And so we learn what can improve future marches planned in D.C. Here are a few: April 15-Tax Day for Trump; April 29-March for Science on Washington; May 6-Immigrants’ March; and on June 11-National Pride March.
The Women’s March Global stressed that its purpose was to promote “the beginning of a peaceful, proactive movement that has grown out of the rhetoric of the recent U.S. election cycle and galvanized people across the world to defend women’s rights and the rights of others.”
The march reached all seven continents; this image is from Antarctica, where people promoted Seals for Science, Cormorants for Climate, Women for Earth, and (of course) Penguins for Peace.
Image from @wm_global
In news reports from Europe, I saw a sign in Budapest reads “Women of the World Unite.” In Wales: a sign has a photo of Nina Simone with her quote: “I tell you what is freedom to me: No fear.” In Ghana: “I stand for tolerance,” and in South Africa, “Stop Violence against Women.” Signs for our time.
As we work ( and march, and protest, and stand and call and email and tweet and blog) in order to advance #socialjustice, be assured the year 2017 will provide many opportunities to join together once again and take it to the streets.
Collage: Pat Shelly