The night after the election, I was angry. After a long day of trying to avoid election conversations, I started venting to my husband. I wanted someone to blame and he was caught in the cross-hairs (sorry, babe). After a particularly long-winded rant, in which I accused America of not doing enough, my husband turned to me and asked, "What did YOU do?" I was stunned into silence as the realization hit me: I had not done enough.
Here is how a mom and fashion designer from Trinidad became part of the team organizing the Women's March on Washington. There are 5 big reasons that I got involved:
1. My son needs me to do this for his future.
I am a black, immigrant woman from Trinidad with a Jewish American husband and a toddler who may one day be impacted by systemic racism. Living in a liberal pocket of New York City, we've been sheltered by our synagogue and our friends so much that I honestly never thought I would ever need to fight blatant discrimination against who we are.
The idea that being different is "un-American" scares me. The idea that my son will live in a country where immigrants like his mother may be seen as anything other than hard-working Americans scares me. I need to do all I can to ensure that my son inherits a country that is welcoming to the very people that have made it the great place it is. I want him to know that Islamophobia, homophobia, sexism, racism, bigotry and xenophobia have no place in this country and he should be willing to fight against it all. I'm a regular mom who just can't sit on the sidelines anymore because my son's America is on the line.
2. There needs to be adequate representation of women of color when approaching issues that affect all women.
From the beginning, people have accused the march of being a white feminist movement. Often, women of color have had to stand on our own because we were left out of the general conversation of feminism, and it makes sense how this effort was quickly seen as yet another attempt at ignoring women of color while appropriating something from black culture and history. I understand, but I wouldn't be a part of this if I felt in any way invisible or ignored.
As the movement grew, seasoned organizers Tamika D. Mallory, Linda Sarsour and Carmen Perez joined on as co-chairs and they are not about being labeled tokens for women of color. For the black women who are still wondering if the march will be inclusive enough, I say get involved and let's work together. This march represents who I am because I am involved.
3. I can talk about the uncomfortable aspects of race relations in America because it's out in the open.
As a mom of a biracial child, race relations in America hit me full-on when my son was born and I was forced to be faced with other people's assumptions about his racial identity based on his looks. People are coming to our Facebook page and engaging in uncomfortable discussions with each other about race and what it means to them. It's messy and it’s real and it’s what needs to happen. Some women are angry while others don't understand their privilege and get upset when it is discussed. For the most part, women have listened and validated each other.
I've been involved in conversations on our national event page as women of color demanded proper representation and as some white women shouted for "unity." The desire to "unify" without confronting these uncomfortable discussions is the equivalent of saying "get over it" to Black Americans. It discredits the very real post-traumatic effects that some people of color still experience.
4. I had to do SOMETHING.
We all have a choice. We can go through the next couple of years angry, bitter, and hurt -- and let that fester inside of us. Or we can do something about it. We can choose to stand up and let our voices be heard in a significant way, or we can choose to let policies be enacted that we don't agree with, while we feel powerless. There is a time for grieving and there is a time for action.
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The rights of our neighbors, friends and even ourselves are being threatened and we need to come together to let our collective voices be heard. Take time to grieve but please join us when you're ready. Don't get sucked into the sensational news cycle, which is meant to only trigger emotion with no action.
As of this writing, over 100,000 people have confirmed their attendance at the march and we are expecting more -- so I know many are choosing action. We are working on offering options for people to get involved who can't make it to the March.
There are so many actions you can take from the comfort of your home. You can make calls. You can help organize. Everyone can make a difference.
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In the past few weeks, I've been working with approximately a dozen people on the Women's March on Washington some of whom I've never met. We've been mobilizing and strengthening our work through the innovations of technology. You can do it, too. Look for a local chapter of the march and reach out to ask how you can help. If you disagree with something the organizers have said or done, getting involved is the ultimate way to have your voice heard. If you choose to disengage, that's the only guaranteed way to ensure your voice won't be heard in this march. It created an incredible community of women that feel empowered to get up and be LOUD.
5. The Women's March on Washington is poised to be one of the biggest actions in response to a presidential election because of the many women who are stepping up to lead the movement.
This unity will send a clear message to the administration: We are strong, we are united and we are paying attention. Angela Davis said a few weeks ago, "How do we begin to recover from this shock? By experiencing and building and rebuilding and consolidating community. Community is the answer."
There are professional organizers who are working on this full time but there are also folks like me who have other jobs and are working on this in every spare moment. I work full-time running a business and I'm a mom. I thought I didn't have spare time, but threaten my rights to fair treatment as a woman and I will find time. Make sexual harassment a norm, speak about immigrants with disdain and threaten my place in my home and I will find time. Try to make bullying so much a part of the fabric of America that it is affecting children. Threaten to victimize my Muslim brothers and sisters. Make fun of people with disabilities. Watch me find those spare minutes I never thought I had.
I got involved with the Women's March on Washington because for me, this is about the type of America my son will inherit. It just doesn't sit right with me to have him live in a world where differences are not embraced and where people are judged by the color of their skin and by their religions.
I wasn't handing him a perfect America before November 8, but it was an America that had taken some major steps towards fairness for all. It was a place that was close to being a safe haven for more people.
Now, we stare down the barrel of a loaded gun and instead of cowering in fear, we are choosing to find ways to make our presence known and to let the administration know that we are many, we are strong, we are united, and we are here to stay.