The Women’s March this past January was attended by millions of women, men, and children — not just in the U.S. but around the world. From an aerial view, cities were a sea of pink and anti-Trump slogans. Countries banded together to express their fears, needs, and strength to protect democracy. It is a day that will go down in history.
That morning, when I woke up to march, I was excited and ready to do my part. This would have been the first march or protest I ever attended in my 28 years. Before I could leave out the door in my Gay-Straight Alliance shirt and best walking shoes, a friend challenged my thinking. She asked me, “What are you marching for? What is the purpose? Is there a solution to the many issues that are going on?”
I was stunned. I had to think about what I would say next, so quickly I responded with “health rights, the LGBTQ community, and women’s rights.” But she insisted:
“Yes, but what is the plan? What is the solution to these issues?”
I was getting frustrated and said, “Well it’s about solidarity and to raise awareness.” My response did not win her over and she pointed out that there are people at the state and local level and organizations everyday fighting for causes coming up with practical ideas to implement real change.
To be honest, the March sounded great. It was going to be attended by thousands of women and men trying to preserve democracy but I hadn’t done much homework on what was the point and goal of the March. If we look back in history, protesters at the march in Selma, the lunch counter sit-ins in North Carolina, or the Montgomery bus boycott were committed to change regardless of imprisonment and physical/emotional harm. But there were specific things that they wanted to change: voter rights and the end of segregation. They made history and an impact. Change did happen. I’m not saying the current march or these protests are not important but what are we changing as the millennials and new activists get involved? What are they fighting for? What are the end goals? How do we come up with solid solutions?
I am all for solidarity and standing up for what is right but a walk is not enough. The catchy slogan is not enough! We have social media, advanced technology to raise awareness of what’s going on but how are we utilizing these tools the most efficiently and effectively? After my two-mile march, I didn’t have that awe-inspiring moment that I initially thought would happen. Because my friend challenged my thoughts, I walked without my rose-colored glasses that day.
I saw tons of marchers but not enough direction. There wasn’t as much diversity as one would have envisioned and I heard from several women of color they felt left out. A time for solidarity and holding one another up also showed the continuous divide among race, ethnicity, class, and privilege. I probably won’t attend the next one until I see some organizational changes and we start setting goals for what we want to accomplish. I want to be heard but I know that having the seat at the table is the most important and as of right now I’m not seeing that happen. I will continue to do my part but it may not include a march.
Rylan Rosario is a current graduate of Counseling Psychology in the San Francisco area. She is devoted to advocating for issues regarding women of color, LGBTQ people, and mental health. Her passion comes from her own experiences as a lesbian woman of color. Rylan volunteers at a local children’s hospital researching cultural humility to empower patients and develop effective clinicians. She recently started writing opinion pieces that are near and dear to her heart. Women of color, LGBT youth, and voices that are silenced motivate her to keep going.