I originally had no plan to attend the Women’s March LA. I have found the feminist community to be very white women focused and disloyal to women of color. However, as a person who runs a women-focused non-profit, Sister Support, when there was interest from our membership, I put my personal feelings aside and got to organizing.
I made shirts, I attended many weeks of events and dinners, I planned a meeting spot for the day-of and sent many emails to inform and unite those interested in participating. I think that those of us interested in progress have to be willing to go beyond our comfort and perspective to invest in the highest good. The night before the march, I made my signs: a list directed at the newcomers to the movement, things to think about.
The morning of, a board member of Sister Support and I parked near the Chinatown metro station and attempted to get on the train. What we soon realized was that EVERYONE and their mama was going to this march. If you have ever been to Japan or have seen the videos of people trying to get on the train there, that is what it was like. People pressed against the glass, completely cramped and no one moving. We decided to just walk the mile and a half. As we got closer, the crowds got thicker. As we approached Pershing Square, we became gridlocked on the sidewalks in every direction. We realized meeting up with our larger group would be impossible until the march started. We stood for a long time. The crowds were generally more friendly than Los Angeles is on a typical day. There were a few people who got really frustrated with not being able to move through the crowd and needed help to calm down by other march supporters, but those issues quickly de-escalated. Being ground level in a crowd of what we now know was about 750k made it hard to enjoy. We could not see the number of people with us. It was generally very quiet given the large crowd. Then the motorcycles came to start the march. After another 15 minutes, we finally began to move. In a block or so, the crowd thinned and walking became more comfortable. I kept looking around, wanting to feel connected, but I didn’t. The march seemed like a performance, like a bunch of extras waiting for the camera to pan.
We reached Grand Central Market, an L.A. landmark formerly known as a place to get a taste of different cultures from family-owned shops. It has now become a gentrified space known for shops like Egg Slut and overpriced juice. I decided to head to the roof of the parking structure to better understand the gravity of the moment. I thought if I could see the people, maybe I could get connected to the emotion I currently didn’t feel. Perspective can shift everything. I was too short to see over the concrete walls on the roof, but in the staircase in the space between the concrete and the fence I could see thousands of people. People for as far as my eyes could see. I planted myself on the 2nd floor balcony. It was from there that I could see and be seen without being in the massive crowd. I flipped my signs over the edge of the balcony and drank the crowd in. There were so many signs, so many people. I was looking for all the folks who might have been on the fence about coming but came anyway. I was looking for black girls, queers folks, white men, black men, trans folks, immigrants, indigenous folks, disabled folks, Muslim folks. They were all represented. It was beautiful. I loved seeing the excitement in the faces of people who thought they were alone when they realized someone else saw the world the way they did.
What was disheartening was how many people didn’t see why intersectionality has to be at the heart of this work. It is not enough to fight for our own rights, we must fight for the rights of the person most in danger.
Fighting for women’s rights while ignoring women of color, queer, trans, immigrants and Muslims does not work. While I saw many people having a wonderful time, I couldn’t shake the question “What is this all for?” I couldn’t help but wonder where all these people have been and what they would be doing in the coming weeks, months, years. I am hopeful that with so many people attempting to be active, it will spark more actionable, measurable movement in the fight for equal rights and fair treatment of those who identify as female.
After rejoining the crowd, meeting up with my larger group and finally making it to City Hall, a friend and I walked to Chinatown to head back home. For the rest of the day, I watched as the numbers poured in from around the world. I looked at all the pictures on social media, I noticed how quiet Trump was on the event, I posted a few pictures and engaged some women of color who decided not to go to the march. There are so many feelings involved with this work, and I have decided to participate, to do the very best I can to move us forward. I will continue my work as a poet, speaking about my experience as a black, queer, female artist and also a person in leadership at a non-profit. I encourage you to find the space you occupy in this movement and get to work. Let’s thrive boldly, together.
*Originally published: Jan 24, 2017 @ 06:03