We were a sea of colors with foaming splotches of pink, ebbing and flowing down the streets of D.C. Flown above our heads were banners carrying our pride, our hearts, and our conviction.
All generations, from the age-weary to the sprightly youth, marched together. Families and friends, strangers and neighbors, we were united—we were driven.
The energy on the morning of the Women’s March was palpable. I met up with Truong Nguyen, a Youth Coordinator from BPSOS, and PYD’s Tammy. We took the metro to the Gallery Place metro stop in D.C. On the train and right off of it there were march-goers left and right. Despite the cramped spaces and slow moving pathways, everyone was civil. We were brimming with an energy that could only be described as solidarity.
We needed no map to find the crowds; it was all too clear where our route started. As we joined the march, there were protesters standing off on the sides, unwavering as they held their signs high.
There were a lot of entertaining signs that made me laugh and delight in their wittiness. And there were also signs that turned my stomach and made me wonder how we can take two steps forward only to take five steps back. A churning anger and broken heart does amazing things in the face of adversity, and I saw it all there on that cloudy day in the streets of our Capital.
Everyone marched for something.
I marched for myself, whose right to what I do with my body is in danger.
I marched for my friends, whose right to love who they want is in danger.
I marched for my family, whose right to be considered an American is in danger.
I marched for strangers, whose encouraging strength reminds me daily of what it is to be human, alive and equal. Because we are all amazingly just skin and bones, blood and muscle, a mass of cells that refuses to be silenced at its very core.
And I will not be silenced.
As a woman of color, daughter of Vietnamese refugees, and someone who majored in social justice fields in both undergrad and postgrad, the election of Donald Trump was (and is) a nightmare scenario. Also, seeing the team he had assembled, I knew that the individuals in his administration would be even more dangerous than Trump himself.
As always, I turned to words to try to express my thoughts and make sense of what was going on, to push myself to fight against the waves of disbelief, anger, disappointment, and fear, and channel these emotions into positive action. So on election night, I wrote:
So disappointed and heartbroken right now. I can't believe so many Americans willingly elected a man who continually and unapologetically denigrates people of color, immigrants, refugees, women, the LGBTQ community, Muslims and other communities of faith, those who are undocumented, and more. Not only that, he thinks it's okay to physically assault women and to control their bodies, to use fear-mongering and hateful rhetoric as a campaign platform, to unjustly categorize people and openly and unconstitutionally discriminate against them. The America he envisions does not include me or so many of the people I know, love, and admire, not to mention countless in my community, my city, my state, and around the country. His America is not representative of the goodness and progress my idea of America embodies.
The results of this election needs to remind us to love and respect one another more, but also push us to continue to protect and fight for civil rights and justice for all. This is not a time to sit back and see what happens; indifference is never the answer. Let's get to work.
In light of my majors in school and the fact that I am from the Bay Area, one of the most progressive regions in the country, many of the people I know are either from or allied with the very communities Trump’s administration threatened. Most of my former classmates and current colleagues have always been socially and politically conscious, involved in championing change in big and small ways in the schools and communities they work in. So on election night, despite Trump’s victory, I was comforted in knowing that so many others felt the same way I did. It also helped to see nuggets like this:
May the election of Trump bring forth the fiercest, smartest, toughest generation of ass-kicking women this country could possibly imagine.— Jeffrey Wright (@jfreewright) November 9, 2016
Over the next few days and weeks, there were protests all over the country, and my mom and aunt even attended the Hands Around Lake Merritt protest in Oakland, their very first protest ever. But the few protests I attended following the election were nothing compared to the Women’s March on Saturday, January 21, 2017.
I went with some friends to both the Oakland and San Francisco marches, and while the number of people who came out exceeded all expectations, it was even more staggering to imagine that millions of people around the country were all taking to the streets at the same time. All day my social media accounts were flooded with pictures and videos of my friends who had went to march in their respective cities, and the sense of solidarity really inspired me to chant a little louder, raise my sign a little higher, march a little longer.
Also, I loved seeing how so many people of all ages and backgrounds had come out to attend, even despite the steady onslaught of rain that drenched us in San Francisco. When I got home and turned on the news, to see the replays of the incredibly powerful speeches made and the aerial footage of all the marches, not to mention to find out that the Women’s March was the largest single-day demonstration in U.S. history, I felt so empowered and even a little hopeful.
Even though so much has happened since the March, especially with the barrage of discriminatory Executive Orders and the filling out of a very racist and unqualified Cabinet, it’s undeniable that Trump is going to encounter a great deal of dissent at every turn. From the Muslim ban to the commencement of drilling at Standing Rock, from the building of the wall to the bills that propose reversing years of progress, from the attack on sanctuary cities to the spouting of “alternative facts,” we have to remain vigilant, to continue to fight for ourselves and for those around us.
Let’s get to work.
It was midnight after the election on November 8, 2016. I was grading student exams while talking with my classmates. I remember all of us sitting there staring at the election results map, on which the majority of the states had turned into a sea of red. The person who we wanted to represent our country had lost, and the man who has spent his campaign spouting hatred and discrimination had won.
It was then and there that I ultimately felt threatened, devastated, heartbroken and divided. Never have I felt so alienated and threatened at the same time, and this is because the man many Americans have voted to be our president is someone who does not embrace people like me. I am a woman, a person of color, and a daughter of refugees and immigrants.
I was not the only one who felt this way. Not too long after the election, my social media newsfeed and email filled with information about upcoming events like the Women’s March in Washington D.C. I knew immediately that I had to go, to stand up against what this administration stands for and to have our voices heard. Not too soon after that, other states throughout America and even different parts of the world decided to join the March in solidarity.
On January 21, 2017, the day after the inauguration of Donald Trump, hundreds of thousands of women, men, and children of different backgrounds came to Capitol Hill, more than on the day of the actual inauguration. If there were any words to describe that moment in time, I believe it would be empowerment, perseverance and unity. That day, I made hundreds of thousands of friends. People of all races, sexual orientations and ages came together to march for causes and issues they believed in, including women’s rights, immigrant rights, LGBTQ rights, as well as many others. We all came into our nation’s capitol to make our worries, our fears and grievances, and of course, our voices heard–voices that this new administration has chosen to ignore, neglect and worse, to silence.
Prior to the Women’s March, I had a conversation with a friend who asked me what was the point in going to a march or a protest. He believed it was useless because he felt as though we were all just going to crowd around the White House with no concrete or executable solutions. He felt like we were just children going into the nation’s capitol to whine and complain. I remember sitting there dumbfounded, and while I tried to articulate why it was necessary to come together to show unity and to stand up for what we believe in, my friend had already in a way silenced me. His opinion rang in the back of my mind for days and nights as I struggled to come back with a response.
It was not until the day of the march when I was surrounded by kindred spirits that I realized my answer. In the midst of all different kinds of voices—I heard people speaking up, declaring why they needed to be respected as women and as human beings. I saw people advocating for women’s reproductive rights and for equal standing in the workforce. I saw signs of freedom being raised and parents carrying their daughters and sons on their backs, demonstrating the importance of protecting future generations. To see people of all walks of life advocating for one another, trying to break the paradigm of institutional racism, was a very powerful experience. My favorite memory is of a man with a sign stating that he was raised by wonderful women (his grandmothers and mother), married to a wonderful woman, and now raising a wonderful daughter. I also saw people raising signs to let refugees and immigrants know that America is their home too. Witnessing all of this, my friends and I could not help but be inspired that we need to be more proactive with our lives and how we want to contribute to society.
Seeing these visuals of protesting and marches also brought me back to a crucial art history seminar I took in graduate school where we had a discussion on performance art, the grand procession of rituals and practices to showcase to an audience. These particular activities, according to anthropological theories, were created to bring forth something intangible and make it apparent, to make them visible. While marching, I saw the parallels between what I had learned in school with what I and so many others were trying to do that day - I realized why this Women’s March was so significant. We were transforming our beliefs and voices into a stage for all to see and ultimately, acknowledge.I thought about my friend’s comment and how he made this march, or the concept of marches, way too simplistic. Yes, he is correct in that our goals should have real change and yes, we may not have all the answers just yet. However, even if we do not have all the exact answers or resolutions, I still think we have made progress in taking the first steps. By coming together for the Women’s March, we let people around the world know about the issues that matter to us, and created platforms to start meaningful dialogue and actions. Not too long after the women’s march, I began to see other activists forming other protests for important issues like the march for immigrants and refugees, and the march for science. With this in mind, I also started noticing that some of my university's students, especially female students, have begun speaking up and stating their thoughts regarding the march itself, politics, history, and other subjects that would come up in our classes. They were no longer quiet about these issues. I find that empowering.
We march to bring forth our ideologies of what it means to be equal – in this incredibly patriarchal society, this intangible, inalienable right for everyone to be treated equally needs to be recognized. The march itself was the physical manifestation of all these worries, frustrations, and even anger being materialized, and served as a trigger/tipping point by forcing the new administration and everyone in our country to truly reflect on their values, and become agents of change. Probably for the first time for many, like myself, the march was an opportunity to stop being a bystander and to get involved. Protesting is the first and necessary step to sparking social change, big and small. Since the start of the new administration, we have seen not only the Women’s March, but also the “I Am a Muslim, Too” rallies, the “Day Without Immigrants” protest, the boycott of Nordstroms, the school walkouts all over the country, and the filibusters on the Senate floor, but also the smaller but just as significant actions, such as the students at the University of Michigan standing to protect their Muslim classmates while they prayed, teachers engaging in sanctuary education workshops, and the deep and often difficult conversations across the dinner table. My friend’s point of view was too simplistic to recognize the ripple effects that happened leading up to, during, and after the Women’s March.
As I marched with my friends from Capitol Hill to the White House and to the rest of the National Mall and downtown, I became more inspired and empowered to protect the people I care about. This march was literally our vow to protect each other. The Women’s March in DC was my first protest, and it won’t be my last.
[Edited by Julia H. & Jenny N.]