The Women’s March on Washington was held one day after
Osama Bin Laden Donald Trump was elected the 45th President of the United States, the latest ‘Leader of the Free World.’ After a $2.50 Marta ride and a 12 hour drive we finally landed in Washington D.C., prepared to witness history. Two friends of mine, both photographers and women, and myself geared up at 8 a.m., just four hours post arrival, to join the hundreds of thousands of women, men and children marching for equal rights. Last weekend was a weekend I won’t soon forget.
“There was a new found unity within the crowd”
As I walked and spoke with different attendees, each having their own motive for taking part in this monumental moment, it was evident that despite his maniacal efforts to isolate the American people from each other, and from the world, there was, perhaps, a new found unity within the crowd of ‘anti-Trump’ protesters. His hatred and divisiveness seemed to alarm people in a way that required immediate assembly and unified pushback. His disrespect for the disenfranchised was providing the masses with motivation to take action against it, against him. This was both surprising and exciting. I was thrilled to see a multiethnic, cross-generational congregation of women and men that remained focused, calm and peaceful.
It is difficult for me, however, to identify my reason for marching. I am a double minority (female and black) after all, and I was there to photograph my experience. I met some wonderful strangers and had refreshing conversations and yes, I knew this moment was going to be one of the most important moments in modern history and I wanted to be a witness. But even amongst the rumble of marching feet and the honest cries of anti-fascism, I could not fight back the feeling that this was all for nothing. That the voices, though many and strong, would fall on deaf ears. I could hear the desperation and the determination, but couldn’t help but to mourn the loss of the hope I’d gained over the past 8 years. Through the resounding roars I found myself taking moments to silently watch. I watched, through misty eyes, waves of men in pink carrying their young daughters on their backs, elders fervently pushing their walkers and clutching their canes, children climbing trees and waving their freedom signs and banners in the sky and women with pink war paint on their faces chanting “this is what democracy looks like.” And this is what democracy looks like.
Since the march, every sunrise has been met with news from Washington confirming that, in fact, Donald Trump did mean all that he said. That he does intend to racially profile, religiously discriminate, ignore environmental science, silence the media, revoke reproductive rights, tarnish international relations, befriend tyrannical monarchs, abandon American values, restore a monoethnic White House and feed off of the fears of poor Americans desperate for a fiscal change in their favor. The following Monday I returned to Atlanta, just in time for my 2 p.m. class, in route to return to routine. The high of the moment could not block the doubt that I had about the effectiveness of this march on Washington. At a local cafe in the DMC area the day following the march, Melissa Harris-Perry and Angela Davis (yes, the Angela Davis) held a formal conversation discussing ways we can secure our own destinies as activists in this new political climate. I can not begin to elaborate on the abundance of wisdom shared with that small crowd that evening but, for me, the words of Harris-Perry rang loud and clear. She shared with us what her tough-loving father used to tell her. This is my adaptation of what she said: “You are not special. You’re no greater than your ancestors before you and no one promised you you’d live during the part of history where we’re winning. But that is no excuse to stop fighting.
“No one promised you you’d live during the part of history where we’re winning. But that is no excuse to stop fighting.”
That’s when I realized the march would in fact mean nothing at all if I let the action end there. The Women’s March on Washington in 2017, like the anti-Vietnam War protests in 1965 and the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963, was a single step in the marathon towards the goal. I realized that these demonstrations are for both friend and foe, granting awareness of what is to come: the fight that is to endure until the end, no matter what. So, my reason for marching is the same as my reason for being an artist, for being an activist, for being a responsible citizen: to activate justice and liberty for all people. I will not be able to do it all, and I may not see the fruits of my labor, but like the hopefuls who marched by my side and the historic heroes that led the way, it is my duty to simply do what I can.
“I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I am changing the things I cannot accept.”
“First we marched, now we huddle”. Attached is a link from the Women’s March website about what to do next: 10 actions/ 100 days