Kerri Sauer: Atlanta
Over the course of 2016, I saw the election bring out the best and worst in people. I have never been a straight ticket voter and always voted based on where a candidate stood on the issues. When Trump began his rhetoric of hatred and fear, I knew I had to be a voice for the voiceless and disenfranchised. I had to stand up and speak up that I was NOT ok with knowing that a man with a history of racism, sexism, misogyny, and bigotry was running to be President. I wasn’t going to be one of those people who quoted Martin Luther King but didn’t walk the walk.
After the election, I witnessed friends and family despair, be treated with disrespect because of the color of their skin, and be told to “go back to where they came from.” I got angry. I got motivated. I got re-engaged in the political process I’d walked away from after college. I marched.
There’s a saying that has been around since the Civil Rights Movement: Atlanta is the city too busy to hate. The events leading up to the election in November severely stressed that moniker, but I’m proud to say that overall it remains true. I’m a proud citizen of the 5th District in Georgia – Atlanta. John Lewis spoke at the kickoff of our march, a mere week after being ridiculed by our President Elect on Twitter and our beautiful city insulted and scorned as “in horrible shape and falling apart” and “crime infested” – neither of which are true.
It was pouring down rain in Atlanta. Severe storms with water pouring down the streets and high winds. 63,000 people still showed up. We were cold, wet, and exhilarated. What I saw that day was a diverse group of men, women, and children peacefully protesting for multiple reasons. Mayor Kasim Reed praised the marchers and I personally witnessed hundreds of people hugging our police officers and thanking them for their service.
I will march again. I will donate to the ACLU and the Southern Poverty Law Center. I will continue to wear my safety pin. I will continue to volunteer my time, talent, and treasure for multiple charities. I will vote in every election – local, state, and nation wide. I will write my Senator and Congressman (Proud to say mine is John Lewis!!).
Pictured above: Victoria Hardman (left) and Kerri Sauer (right) under Kerri’s giant pink umbrella sign that read: “Women’s Rights. Black Lives Matter. LGBTQI Lives Matter. Sí se puede. Science is NOT an opinion. STEAM Education. We are: Daughters, Sisters, Mothers, Friends, Descendants of Immigrants. Freedom of: Religion, Speech, Press, Assembly. We need: Criminal Justice Reform, Healthcare for ALL, Equal pay for equal work, Quality education regardless of zip code.”
Santana Dempsey: Los Angeles
I was really torn about attending the L.A. march. I am big on taking action that can have a direct impact on the change I want to see, but I wasn’t sure how this march would change anything. It was heavy on my mind for weeks.
One morning I woke up and realized for me the march would be a symbolic and powerful day where I could take a stand to have my voice heard. I am so glad I went. I felt more kindness and solidarity from strangers than I’ve felt in a long while. The energy was electric!
I marched because I am woman. I am a sexual assault survivor. I am a minority. I am middle class that depends on Obama Care. My body my choice. I believe in women’s rights. Black lives matter. No human being is illegal. Global warming is real!
Darbi Worley: New York City
I am a fifty-year old, straight cis white lady with a college education, an established career that provides union health insurance, and a husband with fancy job on Wall Street. I am highly unlikely to be deported, need an abortion, lose health coverage, get shot or even harassed by a cop, or be denied the opportunity to adopt a child, marry the person I love or get beaten up in a bathroom because I was forced to use a men’s room.
I marched for the people for whom those possibilities are all too real. I marched to express my anger that 53% of my cohort voted for a completely ill-prepared man over one of the most accomplished women in American history. I especially wanted to show up as a thank you to the women of color who are always on the front lines, fighting greater obstacles than I have ever seen.
I loved being there. I loved being in the crush of 400,000 people. I loved that it was so crowded, we marched for four hours and covered barely a half mile.
The mood was joyful defiance. Yes, it was peaceful. Yes, the cops were being very gentle with us. And I think it’s worth noting that they showed up in a very different way than they do for a BLM march. There was no riot gear and no walls of blue. As I looked around my little sliver of the march, the faces were maybe 70% white and 60% female.
In the days following the march, I’ve seen loads of people celebrating that “our” march resulted in no arrests but few are acknowledging the difference in the way the police treated us v a BLM protest. Maybe they’ve never been to one.
Serena Cline: Washington, D.C.
I originally bought my plane tickets to D.C. with the intention of seeing the first female president take the oath of office. As we know, that is not how events unfolded. I decided to use the tickets with the purpose of protesting the hateful messages being spread by our newly-elected administration about women, people of color, immigrants, people with disabilities, LGBTQ, the poor…
I stepped off the Metro in DC and was flooded with emotions. The platform was filled with women holding signs in protest of our new president, and most importantly, in support of the communities he is trying to marginalize. Tears filled my eyes and my heart pounded as we made our way down the streets to the Mall.
There were fences still standing from the inauguration the day before. We looked at our map, and it seemed that we could join ‘the march’ if we just got to the other side of the fence and walked down one block. We got to the other side of the fence, and we were crammed. Body to body we tried to move toward our goal, but after an hour of trying to make progress we learned that we were actually fenced in by the barricades. That experience haunted me, as it demonstrated the barriers that many women have experienced as we work to make progress in our lives and our communities. We will eventually succeed, but many systems are set up to hold us back.
In addition to that symbolism, I was equally impacted by the kindness of those around me who also found themselves caged. I can remember times in my life where I’ve been that close to other masses of people (New Year’s Eve at the Eiffel Tower, punk concerts in the 90s in Portland). In each of these experiences, people pushed, screamed at each other, and felt empowered to touch my body in places designated for my lover or my gynecologist. This experience was so different. We chose to empower each other, share stories, and make way for people with disabilities. We cheered each other on, and we must continue to do that as the racism and sexism in our country is again being emboldened.
Upon returning to Portland, I went to an exercise class. I pulled up and was immediately met by a woman who rolled her eyes at me and made a nasty comment under her breath as we made our way into the Pilates studio together. I’m sure she was having a tough day, but her negative energy was so contrary to the collective kindness I had just experienced. In that moment, I realized that our protest continues daily as we work to spread optimism and power to women we interact with on a daily basis.
Whether I’m engaging in an intentional mentoring session with a young woman or holding a door for someone as we enter a grocery store, I want to give positive energy to others, I aspire to increase kindness, and I will stand up with power against injustices I see. My dissent is patriotic. I choose to use my strength to help make this a more perfect union.