Words by: Nallah Brown
It’s not just a march, it’s a movement. The birth of The Women’s March on Washington began after Teresa Shook, a retired attorney in Hawaii, wanted to share her outrage with others just one night after President Donald Trump was elected. Shook immediately felt compelled to voice her concerns toward women’s rights and human rights potentially being threatened. Realizing that she could reach a much larger audience through social media, she went online to express her frustrations via Facebook. She then took action and made a Facebook event page calling for a march on Washington, hoping people would join her. Her Facebook plea “I think we should march,” initially had up to 40 responses, which quickly turned into 10,000 and eventually exploded into 100,000 responses.
On January 21, over 5 Million people worldwide and over 1 million in Washington, D.C. participated in The Women’s March. People came to protest, speak and make sure that their voices were heard.
According to data collected by Erica Chenoweth at the University of Denver and Jeremy Pressman at the University of Connecticut, more than 3.3 million people joined in more than 500 U.S cities, making it the biggest protest in U.S history.
“I think a lot of it came from the after election effect. After the election a lot of people were just scared, scared of what’s to come. This is where the entire march evolved from,” said Planned Parenthood’s Florida-based Legislative Representative Kimberly Diaz.
Planned Parenthood Federation of America is one of the nation’s leading providers of high-quality, affordable healthcare for women, men and young people, and the nation’s largest provider of sex education. According to the Planned Parenthood website, 83 percent of healthcare patients are ages 20 and older, and 79 percent are people with incomes at or below 150 percent of the federal poverty level.
There are many assumptions that the Planned Parenthood clinic is where most abortion procedures are completed, when in fact only 3 percent of their health services are abortion services, according to the organization’s website. The majority Republican Congress’ attempt to defund the PPFA sparked major concern across the nation. This plan even inspired a 15,000-person turnout for the Women’s March in Tallahassee.
Aaveri Davis, a Florida-based activist was one of two Black speakers at the Women’s March in Tallahassee. Her keen words encouraged the crowd of individuals to own their voice and become the authority of their rights.
“Today we have been able to do something amazing, and unify with women from across the nation who have gathered to demand visibility. We are the authority of our bodies and our rights, so we should consent to how they are cared for,” Davis said.
“Protests are not the be-all end-all of how we are going to move forward and get things changed, but they are definitely a tool and they have always been a tool,” Davis said. “I think they are important culturally for Black people because it’s always been a way to get our marginalized voice heard. It’s really important in general when you’re speaking to an administration and a system that has the power to silence you, you have to find a way not to be silenced.”
Protestors from all walks of life emphasized the importance of intersectionality by embracing wide-ranging goals such as racial justice, religious diversity, reproductive freedom, and LGBTQ rights. On Womensmarch.com, the mission statement explains the primary goal of its protest: “We stand together, recognizing that defending the most marginalized among us is defending all of us.”
Tamika D. Mallory, Carmen Perez, and Linda Sarsour, national co-chairs of The Women’s March, are veteran civil and human rights activists. They planned to march on Washington with or without Trump being elected into office. “A lot of people should be concerned about Donald Trump, but there are other people in other elements that should be addressed,” Mallory said during an interview on “The Breakfast Club” radio show. “It’s beyond Trump, in the fabric of this country there is racism and sexism. We need to look beyond Trump, obviously address him let him know that we are watching him, but also know that we have to deal with systematic racism and all that comes with it,” added Perez.
This is not just a moment; this is a movement. The sister solidarity march that took place in Tallahassee, Fla. is shaping up to turn the mobilization that brought the largest march on Washington ever, into a sustained women and community centered organization.
This movement has turned fear into faith for many people across the nation. Although women’s rights are at the heart of the movement, it has become a platform for many radical causes. Making it clear that the same people who fight for, and believe in women’s rights, can fight for human rights.