I don’t like large crowds. Too many people in one place make me nervous. Given recent events, I harbor a healthy fear and alertness when surrounded by large groups of people. On Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017, I stood on Boston Common with 175,000 other people. And it was amazing.
I never considered myself an activist. I have strong views about civil rights, I’m proud of my openness to people of all walks of life, and I willingly engage in lively debates about women’s rights. But I’ve never stepped out of my house with the intention of joining a group of people to rally for something they believe in. I regret not having done it sooner.
For the past three months, I’ve been overcome with despair, disappointment and desperation. I feared for myself, the people I love and the future of our country. I came of age in a time when a black man could be elected president, when I had the right to decide what to do with my own body, when all of my bosses were women. I spent eight blissful years believing in our country, excited for the future, for the milestones we would hit, the innovations that would come from brilliant scientists and doctors.
I sat in a conference room on Jan. 20, 2017, and watched it all slip away. I felt as if I were on an untethered spacewalk. I had to do something. I had this intense gut feeling that I was meant to DO something. To stand up for what I believe in and make my voice heard. Then I heard about the Women’s March for America in Boston.
It was stunning. People poured into the streets, onto the grass, over hills, holding signs in support of women, in support of minorities, in support of the LGBTQ community. Fathers wearing pink knitted hats carried toddlers on their shoulders, holding signs that were nothing more than scribbles on cardboard. Husbands held up signs saying “I’m here because she’s at work making the money.” Women wearing Rainbow flags around their shoulders offered free hugs. Nearly 200,000 people crammed into 50 acres of land, and there was not a single negative incident.
“I’ve been waiting my whole life to do something like this,” my mom said, as she listened to Senator Elizabeth Warren address the crowd. I caught her, a couple times during the march, smiling to herself as she took it all in. My sister, who is even less of a fan of large crowds than I, hoisted herself up on the arms of her husband to get a better view. School buses full of students lined the streets, as chants of “Yes we can!” and “This is what democracy looks like!” pulsed through the crowd like a singular heartbeat.
After spending the day with thousands of people who believed in empowering others, in supporting others despite our differences, I realized no one could take that away from me. No one could take away my empowerment, my voice, my strength, my intelligence, my feminism. Many, many people in our government are working hard to do just that, and I will not stand for it.
There are so many ways to make our voices heard. The Women’s March has launched 10 Actions for the First 100 Days, urging citizens to send postcards to their senators about what matters most and what actions we’d like them to take. I’ve started following activist groups on Facebook and Twitter, to stay up-to-date on future events. I filmed the march and edited together a reflection video, which I plan to share with as many people as possible, to help spread the message.
Being part of the march shifted my perspective in small, personal ways as well. I feel more capable of standing up for myself, of putting more stock in those who matter than those who don’t, and of believing in myself and what I am capable of.
I plan to march again, to make my voice heard. To help restore faith in our humanity.