Yesterday was a Saturday, January 21st 2017 to be precise, a Saturday that will go down in history.
Yesterday, as Trump entered office, people all over America and the world left their homes en masse. A diverse global community of children, adults and dogs (!) took to the streets armed with intention. According to Komo News, 175,000 people turned out for the Seattle Women’s March. It’s empowering to have been one of the bodies in that number and even more empowering that my life partner, Matt, chose to march with me, for me, for him and for his own reasons.
In the run up to the weekend, I had been excitedly following the WordPress site for the Seattle Womxn’s March, looking out for updates, yet stuck in a holding cell of uncertainty and fear about whether or not to attend. I was worried about whether the protest would remain peaceful, if it would be safe, how I felt about marching alongside people who might have contradictory motives, whether I would be contributing to a polarizing discourse. My fear turned into complacency and my complacency turned into inaction.
Come Saturday, Matt and I started the day by walking the dogs. After returning home, we made our way to University District for a late breakfast. It was dead. It felt like winter was coming and all students had been called to action by Jon Snow. As we sat eating, we began to talk about the march, what it stood for, and the type of future that we wanted for ourselves and our hypothetical children. As we read about the thousands of people around the world who were taking action, Matt led me towards the proverbial light. With his support, I understood that I could not sit back in the hope that someone else would fight for my rights, for my safety, for the safety of my friends and family. I realized that marching was voting with my feet, and adding to the growing foundation of American and international citizens calling for equality and human rights.
As we made our way downtown, I thought about the following Martin Niemöller quote:
“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”
As a daughter of Vietnamese and Jewish parents, this quote really resonates with me. It doesn’t matter who you are, inequality and injustice is never isolated.
When we arrived downtown, we joined the snaking mass of people and were at once part of a new community. My eyes welled up as I was overwhelmed by the number and diversity of people, the feeling of mutual support and the inspirational atmosphere. In the midst of a sea of signs, we were struck by one in particular:
“Silence will not keep you safe”.
And it is true. Silence will not keep you safe, and so we walked amongst thousands of people who had chosen to come together to peacefully break that silence, making sure that they were a part of this political conversation. It was equal parts inspiring and sad to see women in their sixties and seventies take to the streets once more to demand rights for themselves and for their neighbours.
The Seattle Womxn’s March WordPress asked that there be silence at the beginning of the march and shared the following explanation:
“We are a varied and diverse group. Each of us marches with our unique intention, personal fears, and deeply felt anger. If we all speak at once, observers will only hear noise; they will not hear the message. They will hear only angst; they will not hear the issues. In silence, we cannot be dismissed as an angry mob, hysterical and illogical. In silence, we will focus our message. Silence compels attention.
Yes, we are angry. Yes, we are scared. Yes, we want to enact change. That change does not come from screaming in the streets. It comes through making connections with individuals and organizations that are doing this work, and doing it well. The purpose of this march is to channel anger, fear, and desire into action. To funnel our collective energy into supporting, donating to, and volunteering with organizations that have a unified voice.
During the Womxn’s March on Seattle, our numbers will speak volumes. Our silence will be deafening.”
Though it can be unclear, confusing, misconstrued or forgotten, it’s important to remember that feminism = black lives matter = LQBTQ rights = POC rights = human rights = equality = Muslim rights = freedom of speech = women’s rights = democracy = refugee rights etc. Whilst the march was an incredible way to usher in a new period of political history, it reminded me that there are many people who remain voiceless, issues left in the dark and countries without hope. The current global climate necessitates honesty, community, justice and equality- for everyone. As someone who is new to America, I have a lot to learn, explore and partake in here. I’m not yet sure where the next few years will lead me, or how I can best support local and international communities, but the Womxns March gave me hope.
And so I’ll wrap this blog post with a link to America Ferrera’s incredible speech at the DC march, a photo of a young girl that we met, and a poem by Maya Angelou.
Still I Rise
“You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.
Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.
Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.
Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?
Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own backyard.
You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.
Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?
Out of the huts of history’s shame
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
This blog post is dedicated to my fiancé and parents, who always inspire me, keep me grounded, and ask me the hardest, most important questions.