Amidst a sea of pink knitted hats and handmade signs, around 50 Kalamazoo College students and faculty joined an estimated 500,000 people in the Women’s March on Washington to protest President Donald Trump’s inauguration, in Washington, D.C. on January 21.
Rachel Wasserman ‘20 played a key role in mobilizing a group of 22 students to attend the March in D.C. “My biggest motivation was for us to go and then be motivated after—to come back and want to continue fighting and to continue being ready to push forward because I think that a lot of people were really drained, especially the day after the inauguration. We were just ready to push forward,” commented Wasserman.
At 10:00AM, the event kicked off with a pre-March rally. Speakers demanded the security of rights for marginalized groups including but not limited to: women, the LGBTQ community, African Americans, native peoples, Muslims, undocumented workers, people with disabilities, and women in prison. People lined up for blocks, some climbing onto benches or into trees to watch the speakers livestreamed on giant screens.
“This is at that moment in time for our country, when we are collectively looking in the mirror and with furrowed brow asking this question, who are we?” opened newly-elected California Senator Kamala Harris. “We must recommit our power and our purpose. Let’s make today a beginning.” Numerous other speakers also took the stage, including the four founders of the March–Tamika Mallory, Carmen Perez, Linda Sarsour, and Bob Bland.
Following the rally, chants resounded through the streets as hundreds of thousands marched the two miles from Constitution Avenue to the White House. Waving posters, the masses exploded with the choruses of This Land Is Your Land, “Not my president,” and “We want a leader, not a creepy tweeter!”
Participant Claire Greening ‘19 shared her motivation behind marching: “I wanted to use my voice and my privilege as a white woman to advocate not only for women’s rights but for black lives matter, for support of trans or gender nonconforming folks, for native rights, for women in prison, and for peoples who are the most vulnerable under this new administration.”
Emiliana Renuart ‘20 echoed Greening’s rhetoric, commenting, “I march because I am an intersectional feminist who believes in advocating on behalf of and addressing the needs of all marginalized communities, especially those attacked specifically by the Trump administration I march because I believe it’s possible to be appreciative of the privileges afforded to me, while still having critical discussion about systemic problems in America.” Renuart concluded, “I came home from the march feeling energized to start some really hard, emotional, tedious work that addresses all the intersections of identity that change the way we interact with and move through American society and its systems and institutions,”
Between 5 to 10 students also participated in Kalamazoo’s very own Sister-March on that same Saturday, in solidarity with the March in D.C. and numerous other Sister-Marches across the country. Over 1,000 people marched the three mile trek from Western Michigan University’s Campus to the Kalamazoo Mall and back. Many held signs that read similar to those in D.C.: “our rights are not up for grabs and neither are we” and “we are the resistance.” One little girl marched down the street waving a “just wait ‘til I can vote” sign.
Kalamazoo marcher Annarosa Whitman ‘20 shared, “The best part of the day was when I was done and finished with the March and I was back in my room and I went on social media and saw all these women I had grown up with who had also participated in marches all over the country. That was the best feeling that we were all connected and all standing up for our rights all together even if we were separated by location.”
When asked what success for this movement looks like, Wasserman concluded, “If we get in the heads of one Congressperson, of one of the secretaries, of one person, we’ve made a change and that in my eyes–all of us marching and all of us wanting to continue to make a change–I would consider that a success.”