Monday, January 23, 2017

Post-Marching Orders

I wrote this quick piece on the eve of the Inauguration about my last-minute change of heart regarding attending the Women's March. Then I posted this update to the Busy Black Woman FB page that night after the march in New York finally ended and we were back in the hotel. I've had a day to digest the various FB posts and news analysis and post-march declarations, criticisms, and skepticism. I am feeling a variety of emotions, but I will focus on what inspired me and then what depressed me.

I was inspired by the sheer number of people who had taken to the streets. The night before I checked my email to get logistical information and noted that the organizers had planned staggered starts to manage the flow of traffic. I didn't actually consider what that meant until much later the next evening when people were still marching through the streets until 6pm!

We were staying about ten blocks from the starting point and as we were walking there, we were passed by several groups of pink-hatted ladies carrying hand-made signs. I snapped a few photos, especially of the very creative signs and costumes (yes) that we saw on the street. We never made it to the starting point because there were so many people. In all of the years I have been participating in marches, this was one of the largest events I have ever attended.

I was inspired by the reports that sister marches all over the country, and later the world, had attracted millions, which was in stark contrast to the thousands who had gathered to watch #45 take the oath. It might be petty to compare the gatherings, but in my mind, the global reaction to the inauguration of our new president suggests that there is a movement afoot to resist his reactionary agenda!

What depressed me? The reactions on FB and other social media by people who ridiculed the protest for various reasons. There were the comments on Twitter that denigrated Sybrina Fulton, the mother of slain teenager Trayvon Martin. There were the FB postings by women who criticized the need to march against a President who had only been sworn in 24 earlier. There was the caller to C-Span who complained that the concerns of 'real' American women were being displaced by calls for justice by women of color. There was the post I read this morning written by a black participant expressing her antipathy of white women based on her life experiences, reaffirmed by her experience on her way to the March.

I know better than to waste energy being despondent by negative reactions to the march by those who never shared its goals and who will never understand why there was a need to take to the streets. I can ignore the cynicism of my sisters who chose to watch from the sidelines. I could be satisfied, like so many of the participants I encountered the following day, that I was a part of history, and then return to grousing on social media.

Or I can actually do something.

One of our friends made good on his intention to start raising money for a different organization every 30 days, and that is something. The Hub is donating to several social justice organizations above and beyond his annual CFC allotment, so that is something. A classmate of mine declared his intention to run for public office, so that is something. I have a few other classmates who are running for local office in their respective jurisdictions, so that is something. Several of my Spelman sisters want to organize political action activities to prepare for the midterm elections, so that is something. And I plan to be honing in on some political activism and fundraising, so that is something.

If you are tired of marching and protesting because you claim nothing ever happens afterwards, but you are not actively doing anything other than airing grievances on social media, then I am tired of watching you just get more tired. I know that some of you are truly Busy Black Women--holding down full-time jobs, raising children and caring for elders, and just trying to keep track of each day. Perhaps you are already active in your church, community, sorority or other organization and just don't have the extra time to spare on another cause. And yes, there are issues when it comes to the idea of a global sisterhood...which is why I refused to parade around in a pussy hat.

If we we intend for this movement to last longer than a moment, then we must persuade everyone, and I mean everyone, who marched in person or participated in spirit to find something worthwhile to do on behalf of the cause. On Thursday when I should have been packing, I went to Costco to buy refreshments to donate at a local church for DC march participants. I didn't take a selfie to congratulate myself for being so considerate, and the only reason why I am sharing this is to highlight how even the smallest gesture of support is doing something.

For me, Saturday was another march and yet, it was not just another march. It was the continuation of my life's work, which is the pursuit of justice and equality. It was confirmation that despite my initial misgivings and apprehensions, we are on the brink of change. If we were not so powerful, why did our numbers matter (note how #45 re-instituted the global gag rule in response to our protests), so this must be more than a one-day demonstration. Let us march on till victory is won!

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