When the world heard the news that Donald Trump is the President of the United States of America, there was shock and disbelief. The thoughts of uncertainty, lack of appropriate leadership, and the fact that a blatant unapologetic misogynist and racist would be leading our country was, and still is, very unsettling.
As people begin to process the future, there is a lot to consider. As adults, we must continue to prepare while thinking about our future and the legacies we will leave to our children, their children, and future generations to come.
What we do now determines our future. We are in a moment where we must fully step into our power to create change and encourage others to do the same. We all have a voice and we must use it in a way that will make a positive difference in the world. Social media and technology are wonderful platforms to share and reach many people within your own neighborhood and all over the world.
One person with an idea can create change, get a group of people together, and start a movement. This was proven throughout history. Most recently, at the Women’s March on Washington. It all started from an idea posted on social media and turned into a historical movement.
Taking a Stand to Create Change
Teresa Shook, a retired attorney and grandmother of four in Hawaii took to social media to share her thoughts and action plan regarding the presidency of Donald Trump. She suggested a group of people get together and march in Washington DC. That evening, she sent an invite to 40 of her friends. When she woke up the next morning, over ten thousand people responded to her post.
In the meantime, Bob Bland had similar idea. Bland, is a New York based fashion designer who designed the “Bad Hombre” and “Nasty Woman” T-shirts proposed a “Million Pussy March.” As ideas were coming together, Bland realized that a collective needed to happen. “I think we should build a coalition of ALL marginalized allies [and] do this,” Bland wrote on Facebook on Nov. 10. “We will need folks from every state [and] city to organize their communities locally, who wants to join me?!?” Groups were united and plans started. There was some criticism that arose due to the lack of representation of women of color.
Three powerhouses and nationally renowned activists came on board along with Bland to co-chair the national march. Linda Sarsour, the Executive Director of the Arab American Association of New York, Tamika Mallory, long time civil rights activist, and Carmen Perez, the Executive Director of The Gathering for Justice, came on board along with Bland to co-chair the national march.
It was important that all voices were represented in a movement such as the Women’s March. “The fact that three of the four co-chairs were women of color needed to happen,” explains Janaye Ingram, Head of Logistics for the Women’s March on Washington. “The notion of being intersectional is important, there is more happening with women of color specifically than just the issues focused on gender equality. For women of color the issues that are talked about go deeper, for example pay equality. Many people don’t think about the gap between white women and men is even higher for black women and men or Latino women and men. When you start to add in the intersectional perspectives you start to see the need for women of color to be represented in the feminist movement,” she says.
It was clear that many Black women didn’t feel the need to participate. “I understand, for Black women many of us have been marching,” says Tamika Mallory. “We all recognize that women of color didn’t feel that they should participate. The concerns are valid about feminism and whether it deeply and authentically addresses the concerns of women of color.” When organizing occurs, and it comes to women’s rights, Mallory encourages Black women to participate. “While we have concerns, we need to be careful not to allow anyone to define us for what our issues and concerns are and what we want from this nation,” she says. Mallory encourages that “we have a responsibility to ensure that our voices are not left behind.”
The plans were put into place and the organizers were ready for 200,000 attendees in Washington D.C., what occurred was a peaceful movement of solidarity that made history. On Saturday, January 21, 2017 1.2 million people took to the streets to march. This exceeded the expected numbers in Washington D.C. With 600 sister marches all over the world, streets were filled, bonds were created, and people stood up for a common cause.
“The feeling was incredible, it was beautiful, powerful, and such a sign of sisterhood,” says Mallory. “There was a moment when I was by myself looking at the crowd, and for a quick second I felt sad. I realized these women had not come to D.C. because they wanted to hang out, they were afraid and looking for direction. This was a heavy feeling for a few moments, because I realized we are bracing ourselves for what’s to come over the next few years,” she explains.
For that moment, as she reflected in Washington D.C. sister marches were happening all over the world. The numbers exceeded expectations in these marches as well. Los Angeles was expecting 80,000, and 750,000 participated. Denver had an estimated 100,000 protesters, and Seattle had 130,000 in attendance. In Chicago, approximately over 150,000 people came when organizers expected 50,000 and New York packed the streets with an estimated 250,000 people. International protests took place in countries such as England, Canada, France, Germany, the Congo, and the continent of Antarctica.
As the gathering ended, the momentum was at an all-time high. This left many empowered but with the question now what? “With the success of January 21 and succeeding expectations, the team encouraged all the protestors to march on,” says Ingram. This is a way for people to get active and organize in their communities. “Don’t think that activism is someone else’s job. You can be an advocate and activist in your own right,” says Ingram.
To continue the movement and activism support will be given. “We are going to continue to help people organize and engage,” says Mallory. “We’ve had people participate in the march who never engaged in activism at all. We want to help people find their passion and do what they can to continue the struggle,” she explains. It is essential that we all recognize that we have the power to create change. The Women’s March on Washington clearly shows that coming together to execute an idea with collective work and responsibility, a movement can happen.