Before I attended the Women’s March in Washington, I was filled with euphoria. The thought that I would be among thousands from all over North America marching in a strong show of support for the rights and equality of women made me feel blissful. I was going to be a part of history, not just as a spectator or a supporter but as a journalist.
I hope to become a social affairs and advocacy journalist so this assignment was a big one not only because of what it represents at this moment in time but also because of the opportunity it gave me to interact with people as a journalist.
I was part of the team of four Skedline reporters who traveled on one of the five buses that left Toronto Friday night taking people who wanted to join the Women’s March on Washington.
On the bus, the atmosphere was filled with liveliness as many supporters were enthusiastic about being apart of such a great moment. I was able to speak with a few people on the bus who expressed why they thought it was important for Canadians to stand in solidarity with their U.S. counterparts in a time like this.
“This is a troubling time for our American friends, we have to show them that they are not alone, we have to show the world that we can achieve a lot through camaraderie,” said Dianne Erin Smith, a retired social worker from Mississauga.
We arrived in Washington around 9 a.m. Saturday along with other buses from Toronto, Ottawa, London and Montreal. We were greeted by other supporters who travelled across states to take part in the march. I was amazed by the mass of supporters at the march. People of all ages and gender, joining in the celebration of women’s rights, equality, diversity, and inclusion.
During the march, I was able to speak with many people from different backgrounds and communities; People belonging to different ethnic groups, immigrants and some members of the LGBTQ+ community, they all had their own personal stories and reasons for marching. Each person left an indelible mark altering my perspectives and making me more aware of the various issues affecting many Americans and the things that concerned them in the present social and political climate.
My first encounter was with J.B. Good of Pittsburgh. Our conversation started after he had asked me to take a photo of him holding his poster in front of the Capitol building to send to his wife.
Good, 68, carried a sign that read, “I’m marching for my wife.” He said his wife, who was marching back home in Pittsburgh was unable to attend the march in Washington for medical reasons. What really stood out to me about Good was his statement on the marches in the 60s and 70s that he did not take part in but how willing he was to march today on behalf of his wife.
“In the 60s and 70s I didn’t get a chance. If I marched then I would probably be on the other side of the barricade but now is my chance, I am marching,” Good said.
He said what changed his perspective was the love for his wife, children and grandchildren and the hope they will be able to live in a society that provides equal opportunities for them.
Good’s comments showed me how far peoples beliefs in human rights have progressed and how much stronger those voices have become in the fight for women’s rights and other rights. This march included women, men, and children.
Amy Clawson traveled all the way from Oregon to join in the march. Clawson said she chose to march for many reasons including her concern that the new Trump government will do more harm than good to America but more importantly for her three year-old daughter who has a preexisting condition. Clawson said she is concerned the defunding of Obama care will have a huge impact on her daughter’s health.
“Being here today, I believe there is hope for this country,” Clawson said.
“I brought my son here today because I think it is important for him to see that people care and people have a voice and they are able to say things and make a change.”
Clawson’s words made me realize this historic march had a much broader purpose than opposition to U.S. President Donald Trump. This Washington March and its sister marches throughout North America and the world showed the force of the movement fighting for women’s rights and human rights.
While some posters were anti-Trump, others were bearing messages highlighting the many struggles of society’s marginalized communities, people of colour, immigrants, aboriginal communities and minority ethnic and religious groups in the U.S.
I met a woman from New York who was marching along Capitol Hill. She spoke about why it was important for her to be there.
“I am a woman of colour in America, with immigrant family members. I have to show people that America is ours just as much as it is for anyone else, I am also tired of the face of feminism being just white, we need equal representation for people of colour,” said Mary-Ann Watson, a 24 year-old law student from Brooklyn, N.Y.
Watson’s words resonated with me as I realized this was another issue on its own, the need for greater inclusion of marginalized women in the larger feminist sphere.
Following the march, many took to social media with complaints that the march was more inclusive of white cis-gendered women.
Organizers released a public statement saying, “the Women’s March on Washington was a women-led grass-roots movement that served to bring people of all genders and backgrounds together to take a stand on social justice and human rights issues ranging from race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religion, immigration and health care.”
The fight for inclusion of women of colour in the larger feminist sphere is nothing new. “The institution of racism is deeply intertwined with the democratic foundation of the nation. In 1913, the suffragette movement marched on Washington on the day of President Woodrow Wilson’s inauguration. The suffragette movement demanded the right for women to vote in public elections. Yet the movement was certainly not for all women,” according to an Essence Magazine article.
I spoke to Ashlie-ray Douglass, 24, who expressed how important inclusivity is in the fight for women’s equality. She said that it is important for all voices to be heard.
“I’m a womanist but I believe that feminism is about inclusivity and it doesn’t make sense to fight for rights if you are not including everyone in the press. Not all of us have money and not all of us are able to identify as cis,” Douglass said.
After being able to hear the many stories from supporters at the march, I realized this is where I come in as a journalist with my goal of advocating social change for society’s unheard voices. It is something much larger than my identity as a black woman. It is also a role that depends on the fundamental responsibilities of journalism – finding truth, fairness and impartiality and most importantly, benevolence in the chaos of rapid change.