Speaking My Peace: Reflecting on the Boston Women’s March

“Love not hate, makes America great.”

The T was packed throbbing with energy, unlike the morning commute there were no glum faces or blank stares. Instead there were smiling faces and people doing their best to create space on an already packed car. I knew this was going to be a unique day.

I entered the Commons with my friend, Emily. I had this unsettling, but excited feeling, there were so many people a sea of pink hats and white faces, mixed with the occasional normal hat and brown and black faces ready to march and take a stand.

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The speakers talked, but out of the 105,000 of us there, I would bet only a small percentage of us could fully hear what was said. Instead I took it all in, the signs that openly mocked Trump and Republicans to ones that simply stated they wanted equal rights for all. Not to mention I have never seen so many p***y references in my life, or detailed drawings of uterusus.

It may have begun as a women’s march, but people of all gender identities marched. Is it really helpful to label a march as a specifically “women’s” march? Maybe not always, but it certainly seemed very appropriate this time around. I think it was very powerful to see so many women/femme people, and families, marching to speak out about issues that affect the most vulnerable among us.

–Emily VanHeukelom, Boston

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What I did hear stood out strongly to my ears, we slowly edged our way closer finding a resting point just past the Frog Pond. The Boston president of the NAACP Tanisha Sullivan said, “We see you. We hear you. And we will march with you as long as it takes. Together we march.”

She was the first speaker to get interrupted with the demanding chant, “March, march, march” by now she was one of many speakers saying things we’d already heard (or thought we heard). We were raring to go, but not before the MA Attorney General, Maura Healy admired our clear act of love trumping hate, ending with a bold message to Trump: “We’ll see you in court!”

By now the underlying chant was growing “March, march, march”

Finally they said we could march, we cheered in victory, the crowd began to move as a force and then we stopped. Little did we know that it would be an hour and 45 minutes until we actually began to hit Beacon St, from where we were in the crowd.

“Hey hey ho ho

Donald Trump has got to go”

We all had different agendas, but we were all their for one reason to send a message to the new administration that we were going to stay active. That Trumps job is on the line if he refuses  or is unwilling to serve all American people. I can’t say I support the “F**k Trump” signs I saw, it’s not a sentiment I feel or encourage about anyone. I always want to be a messenger of love, especially to those who are most undeserving of love–especially when it’s hard.

“I marched because the most important people in my life are women, and as long as I’ve got blood in my heart and breath in my lungs I’m not going to let them be oppressed by a fascist bully and his ignorant Congressional allies.”

–Max McCullough, Washington D.C.

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But the energy of anger, of support, of wanting to say something and truly wanting to be heard was palpable. It’s what made Emily and I stay in the throng and hear some good and some not as good music. Pop music constantly poured out of the speakers interspersed with announcements asking our patience, helping people (and little kids) reunite, and even getting doctors to come when a medical emergency occurred.

Protesting in Boston especially has some significant historical overtones. It was really special to me to see all of us gathering on the Common, which has been a gathering place for hundreds of years now.” –Emily VanHeukelom, Boston

There were also live performances, Emeline, who was blatantly and somewhat adorably hoping to gain some new fans from this event. BABAM performed and though it wasn’t being said at this point, you could still feel the underlying thrum of “March, march, march.”

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Finally finally, we got to join in the march.

 “What do we want? Justice. When do we want it? Now. If we don’t get it?

Shut it down.”

Chants, songs, our signs, and the beat of our feet marked the short route. Cars, buses, and city vehicles lined the curbs as we walked without fear of being, stopped, hurt, or run over. Some residents didn’t march, but simply lined the sidewalks, singing, holding signs, wearing hats, cheering those of us who marched onward and forward.

“That is perhaps what struck the most of the event, the sheer number of people. Pink p***y hats had swarmed all over the nation’s capitol. And if you weren’t part of the marching (sometimes shuffling) line, you were shouting words of encouragement to the marchers from the sidewalks, or from the bleachers set up for the previous day’s events … it was an insane amount of people, the like of which I probably (hopefully) won’t see again and there was a camaraderie between us and there were some a**holes too, the byproduct of a large group of humanity no matter how sympathetic to the cause they are,but they’re never the ones you really take away with you after such an event.”–Ashley Dionne, Washington D.C.

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I saw a garbage man honk in agreement with us continuously as new groups of chanters came through, marching in solidarity with us in his own way. I saw people of all types and I’m not just talking about race, I saw people of multiple religions, blind people, deaf people, those in wheelchairs, queer people, young and old, many of us right in between. Many different messages, but all for each other.

I think just the shear diversity of people there and the fact that the speakers represented all walks of life. I felt like a minority and it was uncomfortable and great!–Tara Brooke Watkins, Washington D.C.

“Black Lives Matter”

Still it was a bizarre moment when “Black lives matter” was chanted at times and well, in certain legs of the march I was the only colored face I could see. It was awesome to see so many people out there. So many people ready to fight, but it was making me think of other protests I been to recently when the majority of bodies were of color and size of them was much smaller.

During some point in the march as I felt a sudden peace, my heart began to break because it dawned on me, that most of these people did not care about my life as a Black Woman. This was not my first protest, but somehow this one was considered more peaceful, and more important than the innocent killing of Black people. Why is it so taboo to talk about intersectionality? It’s too easy to ignore issues that have nothing to do with us. One of the most profound moments of the march was being able to look into a Muslim woman’s eyes, and tell her how much I loved her hijab. The moment I said that, a smile lit up on her face and she mentioned how much she loved my afro. Although I may never understand what its like to be persecuted for my religious beliefs, I wanted to let her know that she was loved and beautiful. I wonder when Caucasian women will learn to be an ally to me, and to all women who experience things they will never come in contact with. It will be then that we can truly call ourselves feminist.–Frankie Bruny, Boston

My deepest desire is that the most vulnerable in society are represented by themselves. It’s part of why I blog, even and especially when my audience is so small. I am a part of society that is underrepresented in broader society. That’s why I was there, that’s why I marched.

“Tell me what democracy looks like.

This is what democracy looks like.”

Marching itself with all those people took only a hour, but it was an hour (and even the tedious time before that of waiting and capturing images and memories was worth it) that is imprinted deep into my soul.

Beautiful moments of connection and camaraderie with strangers, outbreaks of fun, bubbles, school  buses filled with supporters, people dancing along the streets, and so many smiles in the midst of the underlying passion and seriousness.

The churches around the common had signs up in solidarity with the least among us, and encouraging compassion. Bells were ringing out. We were marching along parts of the Freedom Trail. It was an experience that made me incredibly proud of my city and my fellow Massfolk. I didn’t see any negativity or unkindness during the march. People were respectful to one another and to the police and city workers there to keep things safe. Civil and reproductive rights, environmental protection, refugee and immigrant rights and more were all represented at the march.” Emily VanHeukelom, Boston

It felt like we were a part of something important, and I was grateful to call Boston my home (as I always am). Glad that my city always shows up when it matters, even if we are a bit standoffish on our morning commutes.

“The most powerful moment for me was hearing thousands of women and men chant in call and response; women: “my body, my choice!”, men: “her body, her choice!”, and seeing a stranger turn to a group of men she did not know and who did not know one another and say that it meant a lot to her that they were there and to hear them say that. There is strength, love, and empowerment in solidarity.” –Max McCullough, Washington D.C.

In the days ahead (years in fact), I expect Boston to continue to fight for justice. I expect this won’t be the last march or protest (and even in the few days since the march happened and this publication there have been some). I won’t always agree with the methods we’ll use. I don’t think the conversation around abortion should simply end with “her body, her choice.” I don’t think the only thing we should be doing for refugees is simply to bring them to America for safety. Standing up for the rights of all people is a good place to start and that’s where I, especially as a Christian, can see eye to eye with the Women’s march.

“No Justice. No Peace.”

After marching through Beacon until we hit Boylston St we came back into the Commons and laid our signs to rest on the gates of the Central Burying Ground. Perhaps a deeper metaphor for the hope we have, the hope that one day we won’t have to keep fighting, that all these injustices we see around us will finally be laid to rest. I was proud to see our various signs and messages littering the gates.

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And this is part of why I love my country, a diversity of stories, beliefs, colors, and creeds all can live together in freedom. We can march and express our point of views. Yet, I don’t forget that many people voted for Donald Trump. Many people mock and roll their eyes at what happened across the world on January 21, 2017.

“We’ll have to see what happens next, “Constant vigilance!” as Mad-Eye Moody says from the Harry Potter series, but we have made our voices heard and we’re not going through the next four years quietly. It’s comforting to know we’re the majority too.”–Ashley Dionne, Washington D.C.

And that’s part of living in America too. We rarely agree 100%, and I know it can be dangerous to surround ourselves with those who only think like us. I think even this march ran into that problem in a few ways. There was contention about allowing pro-life/anti-abortion people and groups to march. The march was organized and dominated by white, cis-gendered, straight women (the same demographic key in helping Donald Trump become president).

I think more than ever it’s important for all of us to listen to those who think differently from us, especially politically. The less metaphorical walls we create the stronger a nation we will be. Because I don’t think any one group has the answer, after all even within the women’s march some people were speaking specifically for trans lives, access to health care and birth control, reproductive rights, people of color, and a myriad of focuses. We all need to speak up. We all need to listen.

“I feel like I marched simply because I couldn’t not march. I worry that Trump got elected because people like me stayed silent on issues that mattered because we really thought he could not be elected. We were wrong. I realized after the election that I must speak up, speak out. So I marched. Because I no longer can’t.”–Tara Brooke Watkins, Washington D.C.

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When “discussion” is simply a misnomer for “who can shout the loudest and swing the most insults” it benefits no one. I do believe there are some things that are fundamentally right and wrong, but outside of those things even the path we might take to get there isn’t clear cut, there may be many solutions.

I truly hope that the momentum of all people represented continues. It could be anything from volunteering at organizations that care for those with less resources or who are in some way vulnerable in our society. It can mean doing the actions that the Women’s March for America website has outlined. It will most likely include more protests, phone calls, and consistent action taken on by us the average diverse citizens of America.

So I finish with the greatest message the march gave me: Stand together. Stand united. Don’t be afraid to share your voice. We need ALL Americans, that’s what truly makes America great.

Glitter on!

Contributors:

Sprinkled throughout the story were real life perspectives from people I know who went to the March in Boston and D.C. Views of the contributors don’t necessarily reflect my views whatsoever, but that’s the beauty of it. Below I share their photos and the reasons they march and will continue to fight for social justice.

 

Frankie Bruny, Boston

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Frankie Bruny–(not pictured) “Being a woman is more than just makeup and babies, and all the gushy stuff that society is supposed to tell us we’re supposed to like, but more so about a common struggle that men wouldn’t understand. For the first time, I saw so much love and acceptance and peace, simply because of the nurturing nature of women.”

Ashley Dionne, Washington D.C.

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Ashley Dionne (not pictured)–“I marched in D.C. with hundreds of thousands of other women because I was tired. I was tired of bullies, I was tired of ignorance, I was tired of hate, and yes, I was tired of men, abusive men who use women as objects for their own pleasure and who get away with it because society lets them. I marched because I was tired and angry, and tired of being angry.”

Max McCullough, Washington D. C.

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Max McCullough–Max and his protest crew (Max is the one holding the “Women Hold up Half the Sky” sign.) “I marched because the most important people in my life are women…”

Emily VanHeukelom, Boston

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Emily VanHeukelom–(on the left), “For me it was a powerful reminder that I am not alone, there are actually a lot of us, and we can make an impact together. Even if some in power perceive us as weak and divided, we can come together and when we do we are a force to be reckoned with.”

Tara Brooke Watkins, Washington D.C. 

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Tara Brooke Watkins (far right) and Ashley Dionne (far left) and protesting friends, Tara:”I realized after the election that I must speak up, speak out. So I marched. Because I no longer can’t.”

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10 thoughts on “Speaking My Peace: Reflecting on the Boston Women’s March

  1. Recent events in the USA – the election of Trump and his first bullying “executive orders” have saddened me; I have many American family members and I worry for them.
    Actions by decent people raising their voices together on the streets are lifting my spirits, as the song says, “we shall overcome.”
    You should be proud to have been there.

    • Yes, I am honestly wondering what direction we are headed as a nation. But his presidency has given me even greater hope in what we are capable of as “We the people”, thanks so much for stopping by!

      • I’m hoping that after the new President has got through his initial “I’m in charge,” muscle flexing that he will settle into the enormity of his new job and realise the his is employed by the people….
        ….that is if he doesn’t lead the world into nuclear Armageddon before!

  2. Pingback: Introducing: The American Constitution | The Linda Life

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