Columnist J.M. Sorrell: Inspired by the Women’s March 

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Published: 1/23/2017 7:44:20 PM

There was no separation. I was one of over 500,000 people in D.C. on Saturday.

Thousands of us came by red-eye bus to D.C. As we walked nearly two miles from the bus area to the U.S. Capitol, homeowners along Independence Avenue offered coffee, lemonade, cookies and signs for the weary travelers. They waved from their windows. Police officers raised their fists in solidarity.

The Mall from the Capitol to the Washington Monument was filled, and we were all over the city, too. Elderly and physically disabled women came in droves from thousands of miles away. Women, children and men wore pink (“pussy”) cat hats.

What I anticipated, as someone who has marched for years, was a solid turnout of women. What transpired was a coming-together as nothing I have seen or experienced. Under the umbrella of feminism, issues raised and embraced included racism, homophobia, anti-immigrant oppression, Islamophobia, environmental violence and inequality of many kinds.

Thousands of women brought their daughters. Thousands of men of all ages wore pink hats and carried signs about the dangers of patriarchy. As white people have been allies against racism, and heterosexuals have been allies against homophobia, I felt for the first time that very large numbers of men are coming out as allies against misogyny and sexism.

One young couple — a woman and man — exchanged chants. She said, “My body, my choice,” and he responded, “Your body, your choice.”

High school and college-age women were everywhere. These young women inspired me. They are aware of what is at stake, and they are ready and willing to do the work that is not any one issue. The connectivity of equality and justice concerns seems to be eclipsing any propensity to stick to one cause.

While I was in the Mall packed with people, as we were moving in different directions, people were kind and cooperative. We smiled and touched each other all day long. We admired our signs and causes, and we expressed appreciation for each other. We were one.

A cab driver told me that there were no more than 150,000 people on Inauguration Day, and he estimated that our numbers were approaching a million. Trump sees this as an insult, so he is at it again — making up numbers and downplaying the significance of our movement.

The numerous speakers at the rally were fiery and clear about ending misogyny in its many forms. Ashley Judd and Angela Davis were formidable. All spoke to our collective power and ever-present need to protect democracy and rights.

Our leadership, if shared, can be an effective foe to the horrors of this administration. Many forms of freedom are at stake. Our solidarity is more necessary than ever, and, it seems, more possible in the unification of this moment.

A personal example that stands out for me was a 45-minute conversation with Keyunti Richard, a young African-American woman from Louisiana who traveled by bus for 30 hours to get to D.C. She wore a sash that said, “Badass Nasty Woman.”

We were sitting along one of the march routes. Key told me that she is a progressive Christian who is at a loss to reach evangelical ministers who preach homophobia and anti-choice rhetoric. She asked me for advice once I conveyed that I am a marriage officiant for same- and opposite-sex couples.

I suggested she speak to love and fairness. I said that she should not go on the attack, that she should convey that one does not have to understand all other cultures to support dignity and equality, and that she is hurt when someone she respects does not offer love and acceptance.

In turn, I asked her how to speak to white people about why I believe we must be allies to communities of color. I asked her how I should try to reach people who have not given much thought to their white-skin privilege. She helped me to understand why it is necessary to not only continue to be an ally but to insist on it from others.

We hugged, cried with gratitude, and we agreed to be in touch via email. That profound and yet simple connection meant the world to me. It confirmed what I was feeling from others all day. When we love and offer kindness, everyone gains something. And when we cling to self-interest, much potential is lost.

As we mobilized all over the world, we noted that our call to action must continue. It will be fascinating to see how it unfolds, and it will be necessary to participate in resistance to oppression and to the destruction of democracy. Are you ready?

J.M. Sorrell, of Haydenville, is a progressive feminist activist who is grateful every day to live in western Massachusetts.


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