The “March” as a form of organized protest was used effectively during the 1960s civil rights movement but its roots date back many decades. Protests, marches and rallies have always been a powerful way of effecting positive social change, of building community and support for social justice issues, and for empowering underrepresented groups through unity and solidarity. In 1903, labor reformer “Mother” Jones organized working children to march from Kensington to Oyster Bay, New York; the hometown of President Roosevelt showing, their maimed and missing fingers and other disabilities to protest the dangers and terrible working conditions in the factories, mills, and mines. In 1911, Alice Paul organized the first protest marches by suffragists seeking the vote. This peaceful yet powerful action accelerated the adoption of the 19th amendment. Since then this nation has marched to end homelessness, to protest racial discrimination and lynching, to fight for rights for Native Americans, to protest wars, hunger, unemployment, to fight for equality and freedom for all.
This Women’s March on Washington evokes similar feelings of strength and unity when people from different backgrounds, cultures and beliefs can stand and walk together with common purpose to protect our rights, our safety, our health, and our families; to respect each other as individuals, beautiful in our diversity, strong in our unity and with unshakeable determination that our voices be heard.
On Saturday January 21, 2017, I will march for my organization, the National Consortium for Academics and Sport (NCAS), an organization that has stood for 32 years on the principles of justice and equity, using sports as a platform for positive social change. I will march also for my twin daughters, and all other young girls who are growing up in this country and deserve to be respected, to aspire to, and have the opportunity for success, to be paid equally for the work that they do, to live free from exploitation and discrimination, and free from gender based violence. Finally, I march for myself, a woman of color with multiple and intersecting identities, many of which were denigrated, insulted and threatened during the hate-filled rhetoric of the past year. I march because I believe we are better than this... we must be better than this. And I’m strengthened by the knowledge that in every corner of this nation, and in many countries around the world, social justice warriors will march in solidarity with American women.
Marching with us in spirit will be all the great women leaders of the past. Women who have stood for the very same ideals we stand for today, who spent their lives fighting for human rights, dignity, and justice. Alice Paul, hand in hand with Ida B. Wells, Coretta Scott King and Maya Angelou. Dorothy Height walking with Fannie Lou Hamer, Septima Clark and Josephine Baker. In the distance is Mary McLeod Bethune with Mary Church Terrell, Sojourner Truth and Victoria Woodhull, as well as Nina Simone, Susan B Anthony and Rosa Parks. And the legacy of this march will be a new generation of activists, a new generation of leaders who will carry the torch forward.
In the words of Robert Kennedy during his famous speech against apartheid in 1966... “each time a person stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, these ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”
On January 21, 2017, from your corner of the world, stand with us, march with us. Together we will find the strength to continue this fight for equality and justice.