#Jackie Creeps: Women's March-LA
On January 21st, 2017, people from not only across the nation but all over the world participated in one of the biggest demonstrations in modern times: the Women’s March. Crowds gathered in hundreds of cities worldwide the day after the US presidential inauguration in a women-led movement with the mission to bring together people of all genders, ages, cultures and backgrounds. The Women’s March, the largest peaceful protest in US history, is a movement where people marched for issues that matter: reproductive rights, fair and equal access to healthcare, equal pay, climate change, Native American and indigenous rights, the Black Lives Matter movement and LGBTQ rights. People marched against sexism, against rape culture, against income inequality, against hatred and bigotry, against everything that infringes upon our basic human rights, mainly in protest to the country’s newly sworn in president.
It was gloomy and overcast as me and my older sister stepped off the bus en route to Pershing Square. There was a strange energy, an electricity in the air that I could feel just by walking down the streets of LA. A young black girl wearing fairy wings walked hand in hand with her mother, both equipped with cardboard signs that read “Girl Power” and “The Future is Female.” In front, an elderly man was walking with his wife and they carried giant signs as well. Across the street was a group of three young Chicanas chanting, “NO TRUMP. NO KKK. NO FASCIST USA.” Just a few paces ahead, a thirtysomething year old man wearing a studded leather jacket and shimmery gold platforms swayed his sign proudly in the air. Everywhere you turned, people from all walks of life were walking together to the same destination and for the same purpose: for their rights.
The meetup spot for the march was at Pershing Square and demonstrators flooded the streets of LA, around city hall, a wave of people marching in unity. In the sea of colorful signs and pink beanies, people waved banners and flags while music floated in the air from nearby guitars and tambourines. There were protesters dressed in clown gear mocking Trump and giant paper mache vaginas with signs reading “PUSSY POWER.” The walls surrounding Pershing Square were plastered with colorful and stirring signs and artwork in several different languages with hundreds more being added throughout the day. Surprisingly enough, even through all the commotion and noise, dozens of demonstrators sat cross legged across the blacktop, eyes closed, in serene meditation. The streets of LA had transformed from the metropolitan landscape many knew to a surreal, calming place of union.
A main stage was set up on Broadway and 6th where organizers and activists delivered inspiring discourses that lasted from early in the morning until nightfall. There were celebrity speakers, activists, musicians and artists who gave heartfelt talks and performances that made the Women’s March not only a peaceful protest but also a celebration of the art, culture, and diversity that America thrives upon.
Actress Laverne Cox declared, “I stand before you this afternoon a proud African American transgender woman from a working class background raised by a single mother. I stand before you an artist, an actress, a sister, and a daughter and I believe it is important to name the various intersecting components of my multiple identities because I am not just one thing and neither are you.” Fellow actors and activists Kerry Washington, Barbra Streisand and Jane Fonda, among others, addressed the crowd throughout the day as well. Musicians such as Jenifer Lewis, Miley Cyrus, Brandy, Juliette Lewis, Regina Spektor, Jackson Browne and Rufus Wainwright were also present and were big champions of the Women’s March. Cyrus, representing her Happy Hippie Foundation, introduced GLAAD founder and president Sarah Kate Ellis and spoke with pride at the crowd before her: “We don’t want to talk about change, we want to be the change. And to know that I’m not alone in this dream brings me such hope, and hope is a crucial component in creating the world that we want to live in.”
Melina Abdullah, one of the founding organizers of Black Lives Matter, opened her speech with a powerful and proud “BLACK LIVES WE MATTER HERE.” The crowd responded back fiercely repeating those words. Abdullah gave an electrifying speech and talked to demonstrators about the beauty of unity and protest but the struggles that one may face. “What we have to remember is that organizing can't be done just for a day. What are you going to do tomorrow? And next week? And next month? Next year? We have to stay organized. This is an opportunity for us to organize around vision. What is it that we want? We want to make sure that we fight not just for the more soft, gentle form of racism and sexism and homophobia that we’re all used to. Let’s organize for freedom.” She advised organizers both new and experienced to be mindful and check their privileges while also stressing the importance to be bold and persistent in our efforts to organize, reminding us of the difficult efforts that past and present brothers and sisters have made in shaping the America we have and want today.
“I’ve learned that when you don't know what choice to make, make the one that helps someone else.” Writer and comedian Keegan Michael Key gave a rousing speech as he spoke to a crowd of around 750 thousand people stating, “You can't clean a dirty room in the dark. And there’s one thing that I can definitely say for sure about this election is that the light just got turned on. And now that the light is on, we can fight the bigotry and we can fight the sexism and we can fight the racism that fills our room. It’s a lot of filth that we have to clean up, but the good thing is at least now we can see it.” Key’s sincere and deeply profound speech showed a vulnerability that was very relatable, especially to those who were unsure what to do next. “You don't have to start big to make a difference: your local government, your city council, your school board, changing city ordinances-these are all the things that we can do right now, today, tomorrow, every single minute, we can start changing things.” Key delivered the last few lines of his speech with tears in his eyes as he shouted: “Women's rights are LGBT rights. Women's rights are minority rights. Women's rights are children’s rights. Women's rights are immigrants rights. Disabled people’s rights. The reason is because THEY ARE HUMAN RIGHTS. And so yes, I am proud to be here and I am PROUD to be here with you and I’m going to roll up my sleeves because for the first time in months, I am PROUD to be an American.”
If there’s anything I’ve taken from the Women’s March it is that unity is beautiful. Being brave doesn’t mean you’re not scared, it just means that you’re scared as hell and ready to face the noise. Before the Women’s March, I had never been to a rally or protest. I don’t know why but the main reason was in part because I was scared. I didn’t think of myself as someone who could ever speak up, let alone be a voice to my generation. I have nothing to contribute, so why even try? Oh, how wrong I was. Maybe all I needed was a push. I’m currently attending college and I’m meeting like minded, educated adults and we’re all starting to realize that we’re fucking tired of this bullshit. Then the unthinkable happened: a man, who was wrongfully elected as president and is unfit to hold a position in office, now stands in the way of everything we hold dear. A shift happened. Everything changed. And I finally said, enough is enough.
So, with that said, this next part is kind of like a letter to my past self:
To girl in the back of the crowd who can’t speak up: it’s okay to be afraid. Know that we hear you, we see you, and we are all in this together. You being here is in itself an act of rebellion, a deafening warrior cry. It takes guts to stand up for what you believe in. Always be proud of where you're from, don't let anyone tell you otherwise. Our differences are our greatest strengths and together we will overcome. Taking the first step for you doesn’t have to start big. Make a difference in any way you can: in the classroom, by writing, by creating-we are all blessed with unique talents. Use that voice of yours to speak up! Always remember to carry that hope with you and never let it go. Start small if you must but remember to organize and unite to make the most immediate and effective change because the world needs people like you. Be the change you wish to see in the world. Love your brothers and your sisters but most importantly, love yourself. I leave you with these impassioned words from Assata Shakur: “It is our duty to fight for our freedom. It is our duty to win. We must love each other and support each other. We have nothing to lose but our chains.”
Article by Jackie Castaneda
Photos by Jackie Castaneda