Women’s March Exceeds Expectations–Women Share What it All Means, Part I

Women's March Exceeds Expectations

Women’s March on Washington

As I speed-walked through the masses on Broadway in Downtown Los Angeles, a sonic roar swelled from Pershing Square and reverberated for blocks. I got as far as one block from the center of the protest at the perfect moment—a band of bad-ass women on motorcycles leading the march toward City Hall, slowly cruising through the hundreds of thousands of women, men, and children. The epic screams made sold-out crowds in the Rose Bowl, Wembley Stadium, and Madison Square Garden combined sound like whispers. No wonder—turns out we were about 750,000 strong—just in Los Angeles—and millions more throughout the country and all over the world (Antarctica included).

Everyone has their own story about the hundreds of Women’s Marches that happened on January 21, and what it all means for them. In our new iteration, TMB is excited to cultivate a community comprised of beauty, brains and diversity. Here are profiles about real women from different communities, from Muslim to LGBTQIA. Some are first-time marchers, some social activists. Some grew up undocumented, some are dual citizens. Some are mothers, all are daughters. And all have a voice.

Women's March Exceeds Expectations

USA Today

Amanda Borges, Los Angeles
  I wish I would have been braver when I was undocumented. I was so afraid. 

Experience:

As soon as we got to Pershing Square we had no cell service, so everyone was sort of forced to drink up the moment and participate. I was on my tip toes and wide-eyed the whole entire time! All around me I heard challenging conversations, saw some super funny pussy puns on people’s signs, and relished the fact that everyone was being extremely kind to each other. I think it was when I was chanting “si se puede” under this neon tunnel that it hit me: I really needed this release. I needed to yell because I have a voice and it’s important.

I needed to be surrounded by thousands of really nice people, because I thought that half of this country literally hated me and everything I stood for.

I needed to be proud of my friends for being brave and compassionate. It was inspiring as hell to see signs at the protest that said things like “undocumented and unafraid.” I was in awe of their fearlessness.

Future Actions:

Post-election, post-march, post-everything, I’m going to focus on empowering undocumented communities because they’re so at risk right now. Undocumented people are feeling very threatened, especially the kids who participated in the DACA program. If you empower undocumented people to have a voice and help them build confidence, they will act as an important proxy to your cause by getting information out to their communities. This is crucial when it comes to voting on important issues. So I’m going to do that. I’m going to be a leader, I’m going to empower and educate people as much as I can, and I’m not going to stop until we get the progressive leadership that we deserve.

Motivation:

Joining the Women’s March was important to me because I don’t want to go backwards. I wanted to stand in solidarity with my sisters and brothers, and for all of us to make the statement to this new scary government that everyone deserves dignity and a fair shot.

Women's March Exceeds Expectations

Photo by Jessica Porter

Melinda Marcelo, Boston

Experience:

Riding the T to the Boston Common and seeing more and more people get on at every stop with signs, pins and pussy hats was surreal. There was a sense of camaraderie and excitement to be a part of something larger, and I loved seeing the Common filled to the brim. I’ve never seen anything like it. The crowd was so large that starting to march was difficult, but that didn’t matter—even if you were barely able to shuffle your feet, you knew your presence was felt.  

It was inspiring to be in a crowd of people who are passionate about supporting and protecting the rights of women, POC, Muslims, and the LGBTQIA, among others, and in moving this country forward. It gave me hope and strengthened my desire to continually put words into action.

Motivation:

The march was a way to take a stand with my city in solidarity with the other marches going on, and to send a message to the White House that oppression won’t be tolerated. Prior and apart from the election, it’s been a heartbreaking couple of years for the country, so the march was a culmination of that for me.

I took it as an opportunity to stand for several issues at once and say that black lives matter, f*ck a Muslim registration, and trans rights are human rights. Like Bernie [Sanders] said, ‘Democracy is not a spectator sport.’

Future Actions:

Right now, I’m working with a group on diversity initiatives, but there’s always so much to learn and so much to be done. And the march was a reminder that now isn’t the time to rest. During the pre-march rally, the crowd was asked to take an oath that the march was going to be the beginning, and I can’t wait to see those oaths fulfilled. We have to keep the momentum going, hold ourselves accountable, and bring this energy to other movements.

 

Women's March Exceeds Expectations

Washington Post

Sommer Fehmel, Washington, D.C.

I had a feeling of complete helplessness after Election Day. I hate that it took the depression of the election to finally wake us up. We like to think we have empathy for others but it’s different when it actually hits us.

Experience:

I arrived in D.C. completely alone, and within five minutes of being on the Metro I was adopted into a group of women who’d bussed in from Charlotte. Being inside the crowd, we were completely unaware of how many of us there were. I stood on a bench to see where the crowd ended and it didn’t—it was an endless sea of humanity in every direction. Phone signals were inconsistent so it was hard to get online to check the news. Once we started marching, a National Guardsman at the Washington Monument yelled into the crowd, “You’ve hit a million, ladies! You did it!” It was a surreal, emotional moment. One of the most poignant moments for me was when a family of at least three generations, including a baby strapped to the Dad’s chest, made their way through the crowd holding hands.

We were over a million strangers but our camaraderie bolstered and united us. Even when we were squished together and couldn’t move, instead of complaining, we banded together and made it work. It has affected me deeply and I’ll never forget it. When I got home and saw that every march around the world had bigger turnouts than expected, it was overwhelming—to be a part of something so amazing. And “amazing” is such a non-word for what I feel about the entire experience. I really don’t have words for it.

If people turn out the way they did for the march and vote in next year’s midterm elections, we can start to turn this government around.

Concerns and Hopes:

My concern in going forward is inaction. I’m worried that many marchers will consider this as having done enough. If anything comes out of this, I hope that the kindness and empathy I experienced carries over into our everyday lives and inspires people to stand up for others, maybe by volunteering or running for office. 

Women's March Exceeds Expectations

Photo by Michael Barton

Aisha Yaqoob, Atlanta

Pakistani American Muslim, Policy Director at Asian Americans Advancing Justice.

I was brought to tears by the sheer magnitude of the crowd, and the dedication that our community showed that day. It was truly a humbling experience. 

Experience:

That morning, I left my home and drove through an awful thunderstorm that I hoped would subside. We had ponchos and umbrellas and were literally setting up in the rain. We delayed the start time by half an hour and just prayed that people would still come. We had initially expected 10,000 to 15,000. We waited, and even as it was raining, people were showing up, bundled up in raincoats and boots, and their signs in plastic wrap. Half an hour before we began, the rain stopped and the sun came out!

Just before we were set to take the stage, I went outside to get a feel of the crowd and I literally could not believe my eyes. There were people everywhere, surrounding the stage, up to the street and still coming. At that point, we estimated 8,000 were already there. When we finally took to march, alongside Congressman John Lewis and former Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin, we organizers were taken through the crowd; it felt like a parade, people on both sides, cheering us on. We crossed the bridge across from the CNN Center and looked back to see the march route still going strong across the way. Our peace marshalls estimated 30,000 people at that point. We ended at the state capitol, where thousands of people were already waiting for us. At this point the police estimated 63,000 people.

I led the crowd in taking the People’s Oath—the same one that the President takes in pledging to defend the Constitution. For us, it was an oath to keep our leaders accountable and to remember that we have the power to make great change. We continued by having community leaders call people to run for office and get involved in other ways. For me, that’s what it is: reminding people that it doesn’t end here.

Future Actions:

Our plan is to push calls for action on a regular basis and to ensure that the 63,000 people keep the oath they made on January 21st, 2017.

 

Women's March Exceeds Expectations

New York Magazine

Dianne Martinez, Oakland

City Council Member of Emeryville, CA.

Experience:

I felt a lot of connection that day with everyone on the streets. And I was especially happy to share the excitement with my 3-year-old daughter Adeline, who seemed to really feel everyone’s energy. I also have a son, Ashby who is 5-years-old who also attended. My work is always strengthened by hearing from people on the street, and at the Women’s March, the message was loud and clear.  People are ready to resist the Trump Administration and this was day one in a four-year fight.

I’m also very glad that my children caught a glimpse of activism and what it looks like to take to the streets. I hope they’ll always remember taking part in this important action, and being a part of history.

This was big—bigger than Trump. I hope we can shift the focus from being anti-Trump to being pro-women. I believe that’s how we rise above. To me, we needed the Women’s March to be a celebration of feminine power and love. Women are love, and we need to take the reins and heal these wrongs for all humans, wildlife, and Mother Earth.

The women have spoken! Share these stories as well as those of other people’s. We’ve gotta continue to amplify each other’s voices now and forever. Tell us about your experience at the march below!

Stay tuned for Part II.

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