The Facebook notification came a few days after the election results, at the height of my incredulousness: Women’s March on Washington. There was no mission statement, no program outline, just the knowledge that women from across the country would come together to march on Washington the day after Trump’s inauguration––a reality I envisioned myself grappling with for the next four years, and possibly the rest of my life.
I was awake, and I wished I wasn’t; that I had enough hope left in me to believe I was a part of the dream. I woke up to the election results feeling small, uncertain that my body would be able to support my shifting emotions. It felt too frail to house me and my frustrations and my fears. If there was no place for me to transfer them, to release them, I was sure I would break. The Women’s March was the outlet, my call to action, and as a person I felt compelled to answer it.
On Saturday, the streets of Washington were congested with men and women of varying origins and creeds, sprinkled by a pink spectrum of knitted hats and protest signs raised up in an attempt to caress the grey sky. A grandma pushing eighty invoked Moses as she parted the crowd with her cane and mild walk, while a sociable protester named Rachel towered over the crowd and casually started singing “This Land is Your Land.” There was anger, comically presented in a greying woman’s sign that read, “Now you’ve pissed off grandma,” and the way the crowd hissed Trump’s name. Even so, the love was more palpable than anything. It was clear in the way strangers laughed with one another over their eclectic signs, when fathers’ lifted their daughters atop their shoulders, and tears swelled in protesters’ eyes as 6-year-old Sophie Cruz told us to fight with love in her bilingual tongue.
I wanted to revel in it all: The love, the spirit, how life could feel so full at such a suffocating time. To bath in the warmth emanating from our layered bodies and let the comfort of hope scrub away the uncertainty of America’s future. There was beauty to be found in the simplest chant or the accidental locking of eyes, and yet, I felt embraced by it and separated from it.
There we were, more than 500,000 people from all origins in D.C., and I still felt the same as I did in my everyday life in Syracuse: A speck in a cloud of white. One woman held up a sign that read, “Old white ladies are really really displeased;” I wondered how long she had felt that way and how displeased she would have been had Trump lost. Another stood on top of a stack of tables, stabbing the air with a “Black Lives Matter” sign, and I couldn’t silence the part of me that wanted to take it out of her hands. I wanted to question her, to know how she put those words into practice every day. How many black lives she socializes with, if she listens to their stories, if she voluntarily leaves the white spaces for ours and without fear? Why those words are more prone to reaction carried in her hands than my own? When the crowd shouted equal pay I wanted to know if they were shouting for the Hispanic woman’s 55 cents and my 60 cents to be brought up, or just the average (white) woman’s 79 cents. Where were the police in their armor and the batons and the tear gas that welcomed us at BLM marches and the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe down in Dakota?
I wanted to march as a woman, period. To go as someone protecting her reproductive rights, fighting for her equal pay, her equal protection, speaking up for her 10-year-old self who couldn’t find her voice when she woke up to the hand of her friend’s brother searching beneath her pajamas in the middle of the night. I wanted to resist Trump in all my womanliness. But I am intersectional, and my need for liberation as a woman is linked to my need for liberation as an African-American and as the daughter of naturalized parents. History has repeatedly told me I have more to fear and more to fight. I was born into the world tired and will more than likely leave it the same way.
But maybe the demonstration at Standing Rock had set a precedent for how we would tackle human rights going forward. That we can see and understand something fundamentally wrong, and feel an immediate impulse to do something about it instead of sitting behind our computers and actively posting our support. The March was historic, to be looked upon as a triumph. And it was something to experience, but I will believe in its achievement when we all show up for Flint, when we safeguard the DREAM Act, and when we all register if Trump is successful with his Muslim registry. Rallying together across the country, and the world, with signs in unprecedented numbers is revolutionary. Real action is immeasurable.