This past weekend I had the pleasure of attending the Women’s March on Philadelphia. In its second year and with over 50,000 in attendance, this gathering was more than just a protest of inequality for women in our contemporary society – it was a reminder that as a community, we stand in solidarity with our sisters, minorities, immigrants, and those with ethnic backgrounds, religions, and gender identities that differ from our own. With similar protests being held worldwide, those of us who have the ability to speak are standing for ourselves, but also lending our voices to all of those who do not have the opportunity to use theirs.
In its second year, this year’s March comes on the heels of the Time’s Up movement, as well as the #metoo campaign. Taking influence from the power that women have begun to embrace by speaking out, the March selected twelve candidates from “everyday women” who wanted to empower others by sharing their own stories. It was a chance to open up and inspire as these extraordinary women from our city took the stage and with their stories reclaimed power. One of the most compelling speakers, high school student Amy Gunzelman, along with her own powerful story of effecting change in her school community, shared this sentiment from an anonymous survivor:
“I hope that by speaking today you absorbed a small amount of light, a small knowing that you cannot be silenced, a small satisfaction that justice was served, a small reassurance that we are getting somewhere and a big big knowing that you were important unquestionably. You are untouchable. You are beautiful. You are to be valued, respected undeniably, every minute of every day. You are powerful and nobody can take that away from you. To women: I am with you.”
The opportunity to share reached far beyond the stage. Women (and men) throughout the rally carried signs that displayed moments from their own stories and participated in movement, music, chants and conversations aimed at allowing those who wanted to speak out the opportunity.
I spoke to a woman who was sexually assaulted by her brother and his friends.
A woman who lived in fear her and her daughter would be deported.
A woman who was told she didn’t really mean “no”.
A woman who worked her whole life as a single mother so her daughter did not grow up in an abusive home.
A woman who a survivor of years of discrimination because of her faith.
I shared my own story.
The stories are countless and they ring dead to the heart of the problem. In a world dominated by a culture that does not place emphasis on humanity, compassion, empathy, and gentleness we have allowed the story of women, minorities, immigrants to become buried beneath fear. These gatherings are the first of many steps in raising awareness and paving a road to healing. Keep talking. Keep sharing. Keep voting. Keep spreading your light.
We are with you.
You are not alone.