When Donald Trump was elected in the highest office of this country, I was fearful. I was hurting. I felt disrespected, and nervous about the direction in which the nation was moving.
But after giving myself time to wallow and to mourn, I knew we had to be ready to defend our country from federal administrative decisions that might threaten our rights.
The past couple days have felt devastating, with executive orders left and right that don’t represent the America I know.
At the same time, in the last couple days, I’ve never felt prouder to be an American.
Because we grieved. And then we organized.
I wish we didn’t have to protect and fight for rights we’ve already won.
Human rights we deserve, just by the nature of our existence. It’s heartbreaking that we have to mobilize in defense of basic civil liberties.
That said, the community organizing and building I’ve witnessed since the election has been incredible. It’s why I was so thrilled to be able to participate in the Women’s March in DC. In my lifetime, I’ve never seen people come together on such a grand spectrum.
Three friends and I drove through the night to stay with family members of mine in Northern Virginia. Functioning on two hours of sleep, we all made it to the metro early in the morning.
In Reston, forty-five minutes out of DC, the station was already bursting with people. Cars were backed up on the highway, beyond the horizon. People already had their witty and poignant signs held high and, somewhere along the line, the four of us realized we had missed the memo to obtain and wear pink pussyhats to the march.
We were exhausted, kind of cold, and overwhelmed by the busy crowd and the high energy. Some young women walked by playing an accordion and ukulele. People were shouting friends’ names to get their attention, assembling their groups together. We were waiting for the rest of our group to park and make it inside to us. So, yes, we were overwhelmed, and not totally awake enough to have the right energy yet.
And then some women were making their own way through the crowd, and offered free pussyhats to anyone who needed them. That moment changed the whole day for us.
All of a sudden, we were not observing the events before us – we were a part of everything. Maybe it was the generosity of these women. Maybe it was the sweet notes that came with each hat from those who could not be with us at the march, but had taken the time to knit these lovely hats. Maybe it was just having a tangible object which united us all – regardless, we were now fully part of the movement.
There was an energy that connected us, and everyone was chatting and sharing stories like we were all been old friends. There’s no way to truly describe what that many people in one place looks like. It was honestly like looking out into an ocean.
We did encounter some anti-march protesters.
They had heinous signs that were anti-gay, anti-Muslim, anti-abortion. They chanted and shouted at all of us, warning us that hell is waiting.
To my knowledge, there were no violent altercations, though. March security members surrounded the protesters, giving them little to work with.
In any case, every person who spoke that day was inspiring and I don’t care how cliche that sounds.
I cried actual tears when Sophie Cruz spoke. I felt exceptionally empowered when Linda Sarsour said her piece. I felt so much gratitude in my heart when Kamala Harris and Tammy Duckworth spoke, encouraged by the fact that we do have some honorable and fierce representatives, female representatives of color, in our government.
What’s most important to take away is that the march cannot be a one-time occurrence. We have to be proactive. We have to be involved in our communities, in democracy.
We have to care about one another, to stand up for one another.
It was something that stuck with me later that week, when I attended a rally in my city, Durham, to speak out against the border wall and the Muslim ban. We heard from refugees and undocumented immigrants, who spoke out about their experiences. For me, the most touching part of the whole thing was when some of the refugees got visibly chilly and people offered them jackets and hats.
There was something about the gentle smiles of the people offering their jackets, or the surprised gratitude on the refugees’ faces, that made me feel profoundly connected to my community.
We need to continue to do this work.
At this point, silence is complacency. One woman who spoke on behalf of undocumented immigrants said something at the rally in Durham that has stuck with me still.
Translated, she said, “Indifference kills as much as aggression.” And that hit me.
Because to be silent today, to sit back and claim nonchalance, is to commit an act of aggression against those who are already suffering and oppressed.
A common theme from all the speeches were that nobody leaves their home, their families, everything they know, unless they have to, unless there are no more options for them. Immigrants and refugees come to this country and they do contribute to our economy.
And even if they didn’t — even if they weren’t working so hard and tirelessly to build homes for themselves and community with this nation – we should welcome them. One refugee at the rally said, “I have nothing, all I can give you is love.”
And that should be enough.
“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore.”
That’s what the plaque on the Statue of Liberty reads. When did we start rejecting this message?
Call your representatives. There are great resources like this, which provides the numbers you need, the issues you need to talk about, and even scripts of what you could say, if you’d prefer a template while you’re on the phone.
Stay aware or stay #woke, if you prefer. Get your friends and family involved. Don’t let your energy or motivation fizzle away. The worst way to live out the rest of this administration is to stay at home: inactive, indifferent and resigned.
We are strong. We are the majority. And this is only the beginning.