Have you ever realized you were crying without knowing? To touch your face and feel wetness and question when the tears started?
I experienced this for the first time as I stood among hundreds of thousands of women and men at the Women’s March on Washington, D.C.
It was a moment of mixed emotions, but none of them were bad. This is why I was so confused by the tears, something I would equate quickly to sadness.
I was proud. I was excited. I was honored. I was fired up and ready to go. I realized I was becoming a part of history. We, women, were making history.
The Women’s March on Washington, D.C. — one of many marches across the world, in fact on every single content — proved that the fight for women’s rights is as strong as ever. We literally showed that we have the world on our side.
It also proved that we can come together for many causes, for many people, for many battles, and raise our voices for each other.
Leading up to the mass marches, there was a lot of controversy and criticism that impacted my decision to go.
Something I find very important with activism is knowing what a cause or in this case march is for, who started it, why they started it, and what actual goals and actions we can expect to happen from it.
For the Women’s March, there was a notion that not enough groups were included, that the focus on female genitalia or those pink hats were too much, or that promotional images of different ethnic women were white-washed or not fully inclusive.
I decided to go to the Women’s March in D.C. because I felt enough was enough with negativity and people fighting against each other.
To me, this March was an opportunity to get people of all backgrounds together to cut through all of that. If this past year and election cycle has taught us anything, we need to stop fighting and start discussing. We need to stop complaining and start working with each other. No great success comes from one group knocking all others down.
I am glad I made this decision, because it was one of the most inspirational and motivational moments of my life.
I went by myself, riding a bus from Southside Chicago to D.C. and back with a mix of women and men on board. Some were teenagers, some were my age, some were my mother and grandmother’s age. Being on a bus alone was terrifying to me at first, but I quickly discovered a community among my fellow riders and eventual marchers.
When we finally arrived in D.C., there was a massive wave of energy that hit all of us. We were silent for a moment, entering the city, as we finally realized what we were about to experience. Well, it also may have been we had no idea what we were about to experience. It was confusing and exciting at the same time.
As I got off the bus and made my way towards the Women’s March rally and eventual starting point for the march itself, I couldn’t believe the masses of fellow marchers that were around me. Every single place I looked, there was support for women and women’s rights. There was support for Black Lives Matter. For pro-choice. For immigrants. For refugees. For the LGBTQ community. For muslims. For those with disabilities. For everyone it seemed.
And we were all there together.
As the day proceeded, I heard celebrities and politicians and everyday citizens stand up on a stage and call out for the change they wanted to see in the world. They were met with applause and cheers and chants. But most of all, a promise that we would all work together to make that happen for our fellow citizens.
I stood on cars, street lights, a forklift, fences and more to take photos of the crowd — often being helped up and down by strangers who I in turn helped to do the same.
I spoke with people who had traveled from around the country and even a few from across the world to be there in that moment. I connected with people who I even disagreed with on some levels, but still able to have an open conversation about what can be done together to make positive progress.
There were women singing spontaneously, beating drums in front of the White House, carrying their children as they marched. There were men chanting as hard as us, giving all the support their hearts could put out and then some.
There were moments where I just had to stop. I had to stop and just look around myself, see how incredible it was to be here with so many people of so many different worlds and languages and thoughts and beliefs and goals.
I know the March may not have been perfect, and I do not think the organizers or many who attended expected it to be. I know that there are those who still disagree with it or think it won’t be effective in the days and months and years to come.
But for all of us who were there apart of the masses — I think it mattered we did it, it mattered that we showed up, and even more so that we showed up across the world.
Change can happen but it does not come easy. It also does not necessarily come from one person. It comes from we, the people. If we don’t make our voices heard, change will never be an option.
We definitely have a lot of work to do together to achieve justice and peace and equality at home and abroad.
The Women’s March — and the world — showed we the people, and definitely we women, are as ready as ever.